NFL Power Rankings Week 13: The AFC Playoff Logjam

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SLR’s Week 12 NFL Power Rankings: 16-9 Nov 24, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback William Gay (22) returns an interception for a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns during the fourth quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Steelers won 27-11. Mandatory Credit: Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

16. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-6) ▲4

After an abysmal start, the Steelers are now tied with a whole bunch of teams for the final AFC wildcard spot. On a related note, the AFC playoff hunt is a dumpster fire of awful. Somebody has to win it, so why not the Steelers, winners of their last three straight?

15. Chicago Bears (6-5) ▼3

The Josh McCown magic has run out, despite a solid game by McCown himself. It’s just tough to win giving up 42 points. That’s going to be a common theme for the rest of the season. Regardless of who the quarterback is, the Bears are going to continue to have issues because they can’t stop anybody.

14. Dallas Cowboys (6-5) ▲1

It wasn’t improbable or amazing, but Tony Romo lead a solid game-winning drive against the Giants this week, which should be required viewing for any believers in the “Tony Romo Choke Artist” narrative. The Cowboys are still chock full of problems, particularly on defense, but they’ve kept pace with the Eagles in the NFC East, which is all that matters to them at this point.

13. Detroit Lions (6-5) ▼3

That was an unacceptable performance for a potential playoff team against a team that didn’t get its first win until the second half of the season. They’ve lost two straight at a time when they were supposed to be putting distance between themselves and the hobbled Bears and Packers. They still control their own destiny because the entire NFC North is imploding, but it won’t matter if they keep playing like this.

12. St. Louis Rams (5-6) ▲2

It’s weird to say this, but how good is the NFC West? They’re all but guaranteed to have two playoff teams (three?), and the worst team in the division just doubled up the Bears and is pushing .500. Despite a slow start and losing Sam Bradford for the season, they’re still a dark horse for a playoff spot, especially with that punishing pass rush.

11. Philadelphia Eagles (6-5) ▲2

Regardless of what happens with the Cowboys, Giants, or anyone else, the NFC East is their to lose if Nick Foles keeps playing like he has. Is he actually that good, or is this just an inexplicable hot streak?

10. Indianapolis Colts (7-4) ▼3

Clearly there’s a blueprint out there on how to take care of the Colts, because since the bye week, they’ve been beat down twice and had to pull off fourth quarter comebacks in two other games. They looked like world beaters after taking down the Broncos, but that might have been the peak of their season.

9. Arizona Cardinals (7-4) ▲2

Don’t look now, but Carson Palmer is playing out of his head, Michael Floyd is emerging as a major receiving target, and the Cardinals are winners of four straight. They end the season with a game against San Francisco that might end up deciding playoff positions.