SLR’s Week 17 NFL Power Rankings: The Top 8 Dec 22, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Derek Anderson (3) and tight end Greg Olsen (88) react after the game. The Panthers defeated the Saints 17-13 at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
8. Cincinnati Bengals (10-5) ▲2
They beat down the Vikings in hilarious fashion, and with the rest of the division losing, they got all the help they needed to secure the AFC East and the playoffs. They even have an outside chance at a first-round bye, if the Patriots drop their final game.
7. Indianapolis Colts (10-5) ▲2
That was a statement win over a team they’re likely to see again in two weeks. It wasn’t flashy, but nothing about the Colts is. They aren’t the most consistent team, but included in their 10 wins are victories over the Seahawks, Broncos, 49ers, and now the Chiefs. If they can beat those teams, who can’t they beat?
6. Arizona Cardinals (10-5) ▲2
Oh, hello there Arizona Cardinals. Yes, we are now paying attention to your playoff candidacy. This team just handed the Seahawks their first home loss in two years. They are serious business, but could still miss the playoffs at 11-5 if the 49ers and Saints hold serve.
5. San Francisco 49ers (11-4) ▼1
It could have been a more impressive win on the final Monday night game of the season, but they pulled it out, so it’s fine. That was actually a really important win for them, as they keep pace ahead of the red-hot Arizona Cardinals, who they play next week for playoff position. Also, Jim Harbaugh arguing a call while up 10 points with five seconds left is the most Jim Harbaugh thing ever.
4. New England Patriots (11-4) ▲3
The playoffs are already guaranteed, but they needed this win (and another one next week) to keep the Bengals off their backs. A first-round bye is still up for grabs between the two, and the Bengals own the head-to-head tiebreaker.
3. Seattle Seahawks (12-3) ▼2
Two weeks before the playoffs is probably a really bad time to lose the aura of invincibility surrounding their home field advantage. The Seahawks are still incredibly good at home, but the Cardinals just marched in and took a win like it was nothing. Am I the only one who notices their offense isn’t exactly dominant? You’d think it would be for as much praise is heaped on Russell Wilson.
2. Denver Broncos (12-3) ▼1
I know they won, and I know Peyton Manning got the touchdown record in 15 games. That’s all great. I’m still not seeing what makes this team a Super Bowl contender. The best thing anyone can say about this team is “Peyton Manning is awesome.” But given his track record, that’s actually about to become a liability (though perhaps a smaller one than the defense is).
1. Carolina Panthers (11-4) ▲2
The Panthers are unequivocally the hottest team in the NFL right now. With 10 wins in their last 11 games, I’m not even sure “hot” is still an appropriate word to describe it. They’ve officially moved into “dominant” territory. They took two-time Offensive Player of the Year and former Super Bowl MVP quarterback Drew Brees and battered him until he looked average. Who wants next?
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