NFL Power Rankings: Schedule could end Denver's hold on AFC top spot

Demaryius Thomas and the Broncos shrug off KC once, but the slate gets tough for Denver. (USATSI)
Demaryius Thomas and the Broncos shrug off KC once, but the slate gets tough for Denver. (USATSI)

The Seahawks control their own destiny in the NFC, rating the top spot once again. And improving health in Seattle doesn't bode well for the rest of the NFC.

Meanwhile, the No. 2 Broncos looked good in beating the previously unbeaten Chiefs but their hold on the AFC's top spot may be tenous because of upcoming games against New England on Sunday, followe by an rematch opposite KC -- this time at Arrowhead.

With that, let's get into the Power Rankings:

1. Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks are in the driver's seat with home field for the playoffs within their reach, and they're getting healthy at the right time.

2. Denver Broncos: The Broncos answered the first bell with the win over KC, but now face New England before getting KC again. It could be difficult to hold the top spot in the AFC.

3. Kansas City Chiefs: They learned a lot in the loss to the Broncos and will have a better plan in the rematch. Generating a pass rush against Peyton Manning is a lot different than rushing the backup QBs they played for weeks.

4. New Orleans Saints: They are tough to beat at home, but the road is a different story. Rob Ryan has the defense complimenting the offense as well as it ever has during the Drew Brees era.

5. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck pulls this team out of problems in the second half of games with athletic ability. The Colts are going to get caught sooner or later.

6. Carolina Panthers: The defense is impressive and Cam Newton has taken another big step in his development. Now, can they handle newfound success?

7. New England Patriots: Brady and the offense must outgun opponents because of all the injuries on defense. The Pats will still win the AFC East. But how far can they go in the playoffs?

8. San Francisco 49ers: They won't get home field advantage throughout the playoffs but will be a tough out because of that defense and running game. Colin Kaepernick is having a typical second season.

9. Cincinnati Bengals: This is one of the most inconsistent teams in the top 15, and it's usually because of Andy Dalton. He has thrown eight INTs the past three games.

10. Detroit Lions: When they watch the Steelers game from last week they will see the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde team they tend to become. They still have the best chance to win the NFC North with a healthy QB and solid defense.

11. Chicago Bears: Josh McCown is as fine a backup QB as there is in the NFL. He can win games and I can't say that for most backups. The injuries on defense are going to be a problem.

An improving defense is helping the Eagles climb these rankings. (USATSI)
An improving defense is helping the Eagles climb these rankings. (USATSI)

12. Philadelphia Eagles: Dangerous team because of an improving defense and Nick Foles under center. The Eagles haven't thrown more than 28 times in any contest during their three-game winning streak.

13. Green Bay Packers: The Lions' loss bought a little time to get Aaron Rodgers back, and their own loss to the Giants proves they can't get the job done without him.

14. Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals are one of the best stories of 2013. No one saw them coming yet Bruce Arians has his team ready week in and week out. A playoff contender for sure.

15. Baltimore Ravens: Ten teams in the AFC have scored more points than the Ravens, who really struggle on the road. At least Ray Rice and the running game looked better against the Bears.

16. Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys were on the bye last week and hopefully they found a way to help the defense. They have given up 1,641 yards in the past three games.

17. New York Giants: The G-Men are on a four-game winning streak and playing the kind of football that usually gets them to the playoffs. They have given up 47 points in the past four games.

18. Cleveland Browns: The Browns are a tough out, but just don't have enough pieces in place to be a contender. Watch out next season.

19. Buffalo Bills: Doug Marone is a heck of a coach and talent evaluator. Like the Browns, they are a work in progress, though beating the Jets without their two best receivers and no running game was impressive.

20. San Diego Chargers: I think the Chargers are better than their record indicates. They just can't put it together on a consistent basis and there's no excuse for losing to the issue-riddled Dolphins. San Diego is now on a 3 game losing streak.

21. Tennessee Titans: Without Jake Locker, the Titans are done. They are too physical to fall apart but don't have enough talent to close out an opponent or put a game winning drive together.

22. Pittsburgh Steelers: While watching the first half vs. the Lions, I didn't recognize the Steelers, who gave up 27 points and 379 yards by halftime. Then they storm back, shutting out the Lions in the second half to win -- limiting Detroit to only 72 yards. It may be too little too late for the playoffs this year.

23. Miami Dolphins: My hat's off to Miami for overcoming so many distractions to beat the Chargers. There are going to be issues with the offensive line for the rest of the season.

24. Oakland Raiders: Matt McGloin did not surprise people who followed the team during the summer. Now the Raiders have a good problem at quarterback, two viable options in McGloin and Terrelle Pryor. The defense plays with intensity and they could be a spoiler.

Ladies and gentlemen, the NFL's most inconsistent team -- the New York Jets. (USATSI)
Ladies and gentlemen, the NFL's most inconsistent team -- the New York Jets. (USATSI)

25. New York Jets: The league's most inconsistent team can't win two in a row. I wonder if adding Ed Reed really helps the defense, which gave up 37 points to Buffalo.

26. Minnesota Vikings: It looks like musical chairs at quarterback the rest of the season, and the defense as given up the most points in the league. If the Vikings didn't have Adrian Peterson they might be ranked 31st.

27. Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III is getting a lesson in how defenses worked on facing him in the offseason. Meanwhile' the Redskins' defense is not helping. A 0-3 division record as well as a 1-7 conference record just about closes the book on this season.

28. St. Louis Rams: Trying to win games with a backup QB is always tough -- especially in the NFC West. 8-8 would be a great finish.

29. Tampa Bay Bucs: Mike Glennon is improving, the Bucs play hard and have won two straight. With a win over Detroit, Tampa could pass a half a dozen teams next week.

30. Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons look like a M*A*S*H unit and all I hope is that Matt Ryan doesn't suffer a major injury finishing up this season.

31. Houston Texans: Matt Schaub got back on the field in Week 11, only to have Andre Johnson walked off it after their sideline argument. What a mess!

32. Jacksonville Jaguars: No one can say the Jaguars don't give 100 percent. This team competes but doesn't have enough talent to win.

 
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