Week 17 NFL Power Rankings: Broncos and Seahawks are NFL's Best

Scott Halleran

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This power rankings series began the week after the draft with each team getting profiled and ranked according to how strong their roster and schedule were. Since this will be our final edition of power rankings for the 2013 NFL Season, I thought it would be fun to rank each team with a grade on how well I gauged each team in the preseason.

It's surely a mixed bag of results, but I've never been one to shy away from being wrong. Each individual post (click preseason rank for each team below) also had a poll for you all to agree or disagree with me, so it will be fun to see those results as well. In the end, I obviously hit a few home runs and also completely whiffed. Fortunately, many of those major whiffs were with teams almost everyone expected to be elite. That's the NFL, baby!

As for the here and now, there are clearly two teams a cut above the rest in our own Denver Broncos and the other conference leaders, the Seattle Seahawks. From there, there are eight teams a cut above the muck that is the "parity" of the NFL. All of those eight teams have at least ten wins heading into the final game, while only one teams in the muck has at least nine wins.

Check out last week's power rankings here. On with the power rankings year in review...

1. Denver Broncos (LW: 2)

Last weekend was one of breaking records again for Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. They are clearly the best team in the league offensively and with the Seattle Seahawks suddenly looking vulnerable at home, the Broncos regained the top spot heading into the playoffs after next week.

The bad news is Von Miller is out for the season with an ACL tear in his knee. That makes two of the Broncos three best players on Injured Reserve now. It's even worse than that. They have lost for the year: Von Miller, Ryan Clady, Kevin Vickerson, Quinton Carter, Bradley Stewart, Don Koppen, Lerentee McCray, Quanterus Smith and one player with a designation to return who may not be ready this year anyway in Rahim Moore. Add in major question marks for both Wes Welker and Derek Wolfe and you have a team that has somehow been able to maintain elite status in spite of these injuries.

This is how Broncos fans feel every time a guy goes down with an injury:

Broncos Preseason Rank: #1

The Denver Broncos have the most talented team in the NFL - bar none. Their offensive line is elite. Their wide receiving core is elite. Their quarterback is elite. Their tight end group is good. Their backfield is good. Their defensive line is elite. Their linebacker core is good. Their defensive backfield is elite. And obviously they are now elite on special teams. In fact, the only position I am even mildly concerned about is the middle linebacker position. That is more than just "par for the course", that's nearly a hole in one or an easy eagle opportunity!

My Grade: A+

Fortunately, my homerism and reality were perfectly matched as the Broncos went on to shatter records on most weeks throughout the 2013 NFL Season. Hopefully this magical season will be capped with a Lombardi Trophy.

2. Seattle Seahawks (LW: 1)

The Seattle Seahawks actually looked beatable at home for the first time in years, which should give opposing teams a little extra confidence heading into that stadium in early January. They are still a dominant football team on most weeks, so one spot really is all that should be lost here, though it is noteworthy that this team has dropped two of its last three games.

Seahawks Preseason Rank: #7

The Seattle Seahawks could very well be fools gold. Their roster isn't as strong as people think and people look at the hot streak they had at the end of the season, while ignoring the 6 road games they lost last season. Elite teams win on the road... they also don't get caught roiding up. My bias is more towards Pete Carroll's style of coaching, which I don't think works over the long haul. Additionally, I love fading "surprise" teams the year after their surprise playoff run.

My Grade: B-

I would have bumped this grade up to a B+, but my attitude back then was one of distaste for Pete Carroll's style of coaching and I really thought this team would fail. They did not fail and are, in fact, dominant. Therefore, I graded myself a little lower.

3. Carolina Panthers (LW: 3)

Cam Newton led the Carolina Panthers on a masterful late game winning drive to defeat the New Orleans Saints last weekend, which will likely secure the NFC South for the Panthers for the first time in over half a decade. A win next week will also secure a first round bye.

Panthers Preseason Rank: #25

As for the Carolina Panthers here, I am simply not a believe in Cam Newton the leader yet. He strikes me as a quitter when the chips are down. He may not always strike me that way, because maturity comes at different times for different people. That said, I need to see it before I start to believe it and until I do, they are a sub-.500 football team in my eyes.

My Grade: F

To be fair, this ranking was based on the old Cam Newton. The selfish me-first player that was more concerned about his own stardom and statistics than helping his team win football games. If I had seen the new Cam Newton before writing this, I would have graded out much better I think. I'm definitely a believer now obviously, as this team is third on my power rankings today.

4. San Francisco 49ers (LW: 4)

The San Francisco 49ers have come on strong after some early season struggles to secure a playoff spot. If, somehow, the Seahawks choke and fall to the St. Louis Rams next week then the 49ers could actually end up with the division title and a first round bye. I don't see that happening, but teams should be wary of any 12-4 Wild Card team.

49ers Preseason Rank: #3

Overall, this team is frighteningly talented, but any team with a young quarterback can be rattled at just the wrong time, so a championship is definitely not guaranteed for this team. It's all about containing Kaepernick and forcing him into making bad decisions.

My Grade: A

I was nearly perfect with this projection. I would give myself an A+, but I ended up talking this team up like they were the second coming of the Bill Walsh's 1980's teams. After reading that crap, I downgraded myself.

5. New England Patriots (LW: 7)

As much as I complained about injuries to the Broncos above, the team that has suffered the most injuries in 2013 has been none other than these New England Patriots. It's been a disastrous year for them, yet here they are sitting at 11-4 and among the AFC's elite teams. This is why having a Hall of Fame quarterback is worth whatever amount of money is needed - unless that elite quarterback is named Joe Flacco.

Patriots Preseason Rank: #6

There has been a lot of "Patriots will take a step back" talk, but I disagree. This franchise is a perennial playoff team and I cannot recall the last time Tom Brady missed the playoffs. This team also has the Denver Broncos number, so if Peyton Manning wants another ring it will likely have to come with beating the Patriots along the way.

My Grade: A+

I nailed this analysis. Rewind back to June and there were plenty of naysayers out there saying the Patriots would not be a powerhouse this season. I disagreed(so did most of MHR) and right now the Patriots are poised to secure the other first round bye. The Broncos may very well need to beat Tom Brady to get another ring.

6. Cincinnati Bengals (LW: 8)

The Cincinnati Bengals have won four of their last five games, losing only to the Pittsburgh Steelers. They seem like an elite teams, but their 2-3 record within the division makes me want to believe they might be frauds. A division winner should be able to take care of their division, but with the way they are beating teams right now, it makes sense for them to be solidly in the Top 8.

Bengals Preseason Rank: #12

From a pure talent standpoint, they should win the division, but they always seem to come up short to one of the big two in the AFC North; the Baltimore Ravens or Pittsburgh Steelers. The biggest key to this team is whether or not they can diversify away from their one trick pony offensive attack. That being Andy Dalton to A.J. Green every other play. I do not expect this team to break through the top crust of the AFC, but they'll be competing for a playoff spot come late December.

My Grade: B+

Based on my analysis of this team, I think I was still spot on. I was six spots away, but really the Bengals haven't done anything to make my preseason analysis about them wrong. They dropped games to both the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers, while still relying far too much on their one trick pony in A.J. Green. They just benefit from the Ravens and Steelers sucking it up all year.

7. Indianapolis Colts (LW: 9)

Andrew Luck and the Colts have had kind of a rough ride this year, with several blowout losses to inferior teams and a few close victories over other inferior teams. The thing they have done well, however, is taking care of their division. A perfect 5-0 record there and another perfect 4-0 against the NFL's elite teams, with blowout wins over the 49ers and Chiefs. They also toppled the Seahawks and Broncos in much closer games.

Colts Preseason Rank: #17

The Colts are fools gold. Almost all of their wins were close, nail biting affairs. Their biggest wins of the year were 20-13 scores over the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills. All things even out over time, so I expect their close games to start going the other way more often.

My Grade: D-

I completely miscalculated this team. I expected regression like the Washington Redskins experienced, instead they took the next step forward. Those close wins do even out, either to more losses or to more success. At the time of that post, that possibility didn't even cross my mind.

8. Kansas City Chiefs (LW: 5)

Alex Smith had the worst game of the season last week in a home loss to the Colts. Overall, the Kansas City Chiefs have a great regular season record, but they have dropped four of their last six games. Even with Jamaal Charles, I don't think this team will escape the first round on the road against any of the current division leaders. They are the fifth best team in the conference.

Chiefs Preseason Rank: #20

The addition of Alex Smith and Andy Reid is going to make the Kansas City Chiefs at least competitive. They have better talent than the Oakland Raiders and will continue to play tough at home. A 7-9 record isn't beyond the realm of possibility with this football team.

In fact, out of all of the AFC West teams, it is the Chiefs I worry about the most 2-3 years from now. Phillip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers are getting old and the Raiders are a fairly long way away from getting their act back together. Once Peyton Manning retires, its going to get a whole lot interesting in the AFC West for us Bronco fans.

My Grade: C+

The disparity of ranking is huge, but it was hard to put the worst team in football any higher before a game was played. If you read the full post linked above, you can tell I was pretty high on the Chiefs coming into this season. They obviously shattered all expectations though, so even my optimism for this franchise during the preseason did not do them justice.

9. New Orleans Saints (LW: 6)

The New Orleans Saints defense played magnificent all game long, but in the final minutes allowed Cam Newton to shove a dagger in their hearts for a game winning touchdown. The offense could not get things going and in the end, the Saints will likely fall short of the division title in 2013. They could do some serious damage in the playoffs though. The NFC tournament is looking pretty interesting for road teams.

Saints Preseason Rank: #9

The Saints should be much better this year, especially after drafting defense last weekend. They are going to need some better defensive effort if they are doing to stave off the forty-bergers next season. With Sean Payton returning, look for this team to fight their way back into the playoffs.

My Grade: A+

The value of a franchise quarterback means everything. I had a feeling that with Sean Payton back from his suspension, Drew Brees would be able to get back to playing football and that is exactly what he did.

10. Arizona Cardinals (LW: 10)

With a huge win on the road over one of the NFL's best teams, the Arizona Cardinals had a great regular season record. The reason I could not move them up in rankings is because they have a terrible divisional record and need the Saints to lose in order to get into the playoffs.

Cardinals Preseason Rank: #29

Today we'll take a look a the weakest team in one of the league's strongest divisions. The Cardinals will finish with a better team than what their record will suggest, but I expect them to run into plenty of buzz saws in the NFC West. In a game of match-ups, the Cardinals simply don't match up well with those three other teams.

My Grade: F

Early on it looked like I would get it only slightly wrong when the Cardinals were a game under .500 at the midway point. Then they ripped off 7 wins in 8 games and now I just look like an idiot. It happens, I'll take it like a man.

11. Philadelphia Eagles (LW: 14)

Nick Foles has the Philadelphia Eagles rolling. I think they will easily dispatch the Kyle Orton led Dallas Cowboys to take the division title next week and they will likely be a tough opponent at home in the playoffs. Whether they win or not will depend on their opponent. I think they match up well against the Saints, but not so much the 49ers.

Eagles Preseason Rank: #23

The NFC East gets tons of hype every single year and since I'm on the west coast, you won't see that from me. The NFC East is severely limited in talent, but not on pride or arrogance. Chip Kelly has his work cut out for him, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Everything will depend on how quickly he can install his style of offense.

My Grade: D+

Sometimes its tough to grade. The context of my ranking was based on Michael Vick being the quarterback. I doubt anyone here would disagree with my ranking now based on what we saw with him in there at quarterback. Even so, I actually thought Matt Barkley would be his backup...

12. San Diego Chargers (LW: 15)

Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers are flying high right now and inexplicably are still in the playoff hunt even though they needed two different teams to lose out. So far, both the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens have lost the first of those two games. The Chargers have won four of their last five and now need to take down the Chiefs and hope both the Dolphins and Ravens lose again.

Chargers Preseason Rank: #15

Yes, I think the San Diego Chargers are a borderline playoff team in 2013. The exit of Norv Turner should at least equate to a few more wins this year and Philip Rivers can't possibly continue his downward spiral, can he? (Rhetorical, we all know the answer could be yes.)

As a fan, I am not overly worried about the Chargers long term. I think they end up getting surpassed by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2014 and the Denver Broncos will remain ahead of them in the post-Manning era as well. That could change, but as it stands right now, the Chargers are not going to regain their elite status any time soon.

My Grade: A-

I feel good about my preseason projections as the Chargers are indeed a borderline playoff team. The Chargers are no longer masters of the AFC West now that the Broncos have won three straight division titles, but they are still a dangerous football team.

13. Baltimore Ravens (LW: 11)

Joe Flacco is leading his team out of playoff contention, and now the Baltimore Ravens have to travel to Cincinnati to take on the division leading Bengals. The Bengals need this game for playoff positioning, so Flacco will actually have to be elite in order to get into the playoffs at all. I doubt that happens.

Ravens Preseason Rank: #4

Let the hate pour in. I'm going to get it from my fellow Denver Broncos fans for ranking this team anywhere and I'm going to get it from Ravens fans who are still running around with their junk hangin' all out loud and proud. Fine, I get it. The simple fact remains; the last meaningful game played was won by the Baltimore Ravens.

My Grade: C-

I stupidly latched onto the "buy they're defending Super Bowl champions" and almost ranked them first. Deep down, I think we all know they were going to suck like they did. I would like nothing more than for Joe Flacco to fail next week and for them to be bounced from contention.

The Rest

Most of these teams are out of playoff contention, but a few may actually get in. We know one of the NFC North teams will win the division, but they all pretty much stink unless Aaron Rodgers comes back anytime soon. The other likely playoff team would be the Miami Dolphins. All they need to do is beat the New York Jets and their in, but only if the Chargers also win. Yes, its confusing.

Below I rank all of the teams as for right now, then grade myself based on the preseason rankings I made back in May and June of this year. Thank you all for participating this year in the comments thread - including the good and the bad responses!! ha. ha.

Rank

Team

Preseason Rank

My Grade

14

Miami Dolphins

21

C-

15

Chicago Bears

11

B-

16

Pittsburgh Steelers

16

A+

17

Dallas Cowboys

26

D+

18

St. Louis Rams

14

B

19

Green Bay Packers

2

F

20

New York Jets

31

D

21

Detroit Lions

18

A-

22

Tennessee Titans

27

B-

23

Buffalo Bills

28

B-

24

New York Giants

10

D-

25

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

24

A

26

Minnesota Vikings

22

B+

27

Atlanta Falcons

5

F

28

Cleveland Browns

19

C

29

Jacksonville Jaguars

32

B+

30

Oakland Raiders

30

A+

31

Washington Redskins

13

F

32

Houston Texans

8

F

There you have it. This was my first year posting power rankings like this and I think I did fairly well with 21 grades of C or higher out of 32. I had fun for the most part making these power rankings a light hearted affair, but if any of you are playing in competitive Pick'em leagues for cash then you probably already keep mental tabs on your own power rankings. I play competitive Pick'em leagues every year, and I currently sit tied for fifth out of nearly fifty opponents with one week to go. If I can somehow grab that fourth place spot, I'll make some more dough before this year is over, so wish me luck!

These power ranking posts will return next year soon after the draft. Look forward to chatting it up over these nonsensical rankings then! Go Broncos!

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