NFL Power Rankings Week 14: The Elite Tier

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SLR’s Week 14 NFL Power Rankings: The Top 8 Dec 1, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (25) scores a touchdown during the second half of the game against the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium. Denver won 35-28. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

8. Kansas City Chiefs (9-3) ▼1

Another valiant effort by the Chiefs fell just short against the Broncos, and they’ve now lost three straight to answer their season-opening nine-game winning streak. They’d basically have to lose out to miss the playoffs, but will they actually be able to beat anyone when they get there? At least Alex Smith is starting to turn the ball loose downfield with some success.

7. San Francisco 49ers (8-4) ▲1

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing for the 49ers this season, but they look to be rounding into form at the right time. They control their own destiny in the playoff hunt, but they have tough games against Seattle and Arizona left on the schedule. The defense is as good as advertised, but how far will Colin Kaepernick be able to carry them?

6. Cincinnati Bengals (8-4) NC

It rarely looks pretty with the Bengals, and this game was no exception. Regardless, they have a two-game edge in the division with four games to go. A couple more ugly wins like that, and they can safely punch their playoff ticket. Andy Dalton still needs to play better, though.

5. New Orleans Saints (9-3) ▼2

I’m not convinced what we saw on Monday night was just a total flop performance by the Saints. I mean, it was a flop performance, but I’m more inclined to give credit to the Seahawks than to take it away from the Saints. Of course, with this loss, the Panthers go from the “objects may be closer than they appear” mirror to the passing lane. The Saints are just about unbeatable at the Superdome, but will they even get a playoff game there now?

4. Carolina Panthers  (9-3) ▲1

Another week, another win. Ho-hum. They’re not even thinking “wildcard spot” anymore.  They’re thinking about overtaking the Saints and earning a first-round bye. With way they’re playing right now, they can.

3. New England Patriots (9-3) ▲1

That wasn’t the cleanest, prettiest performance we’ve seen from the Patriots, but they came out with the win just the same. It’s an odd team that can shut down the Broncos one week, then give up 31 points to Case Keenum and the Texans the next, but winning is winning.

2.  Denver Broncos (10-2) NC

That was a nice bounce-back win against the Chiefs that puts them in the driver’s seat in the AFC West. Not only have they just about locked up the division, they look to also be the odds-on favorite for at least a first-round playoff bye. But can they actually do something when they get there this time?

1. Seattle Seahawks (11-1) NC

Holy whoa. I didn’t even know. I mean, there’s being the best team in the NFC, and then there’s beating the second-best team in the NFC like they’re running Matt Flynn at quarterback. I hereby apologize for every week this season the Seahawks weren’t in first place. They may not play quite as well away from home, but it doesn’t look like that’ll be a problem in the playoffs.