NFL Power Rankings Week 15: The NFC Opens Wide

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SLR’s Week 15 NFL Power Rankings: The Top 8 Dec 8, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) fumbles out of bounds as he is hit by New Orleans Saints cornerback Corey White (24) and free safety Malcolm Jenkins (27) during the first quarter of a game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

8. Kansas City Chiefs (10-3) NC

You think the Chiefs had a little something to prove? They executed a thorough stomping in Washington, snapping their losing streak in impressive fashion. The question still remains whether they can do that to a team with more than three wins.

7. Cincinnati Bengals (9-4) ▼1

It’s actually incredible what this team can do when they take care of the football. If Andy Dalton keeps playing like that, they have a very high ceiling in the playoffs. I’d like to see them tighten up a bit defensively. It’s not fair that they drop after a win, but it would have been more unfair to leave San Francisco unchanged after beating Seattle.

6. San Francisco 49ers (9-4) ▲1

That is a gigantic win for the 49ers. Not only does it ruin Seattle’s bulletproof image, but with the Cardinals charging hard in the second half, they actually needed this game to preserve their playoff position. Beating the Seahawks will help them immensely with the tiebreaker situation.

5. Carolina Panthers  (9-4) ▼1

Nothing lasts forever, and there are worse things for the Panthers than their winning streak coming to an end in the Superdome. Many, many teams have suffered the same fate. They need to figure out how the Saints broke down that vaunted defense, and fix it before their rematch in two weeks. This isn’t a team built to win shootouts.

4. New England Patriots (10-3) ▼1

Realistically, the Patriots should never have needed a miracle comeback to beat the Browns. But they did, and they did it. Much of the focus of this game will be the health of Rob Gronkowski, but haven’t the Pats basically already proven that they can win regardless of the circumstances?

3. New Orleans Saints (10-3) 2

The sign of a team with good leadership is the ability to earn a huge primetime win just a week after a huge primetime loss. That may also be the sign of a fantastic home field advantage. Either way, the Saints stopped the Panthers’ incredible run by their own hands, and they now hold the keys to the NFC South and a first round bye. I’m impressed with the job they did on Cam Newton, but even more so with their ability to move the ball on that stingy defense.

2.  Denver Broncos (11-2) NC

They keep pretending to be vulnerable, and then blowing teams out in the second half. I’m not sure if I’m more concerned with their apparent inconsistency, or impressed with their resiliency in fighting through it. Either way, they’re set up well for a playoff run. Still not sure if they’ll go anywhere once they get there, which is why I can’t move them up to first.

1. Seattle Seahawks (11-2) NC

That’s the NFL for you. A mere week after they win a game that makes them look absolutely unstoppable, they lose a close game to a division rival. That’s why the top seeds always seem to struggle in the playoffs. You just can’t predict this game from week to week. That said, the Seahawks might break the trend of top seeds losing in the playoffs, considering how well they play at home. Both their losses this season came on the road.