NFL Power Rankings Week 15: New England Patriots Vault to No. 1

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Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to another edition of the Rant Sports NFL Power Rankings. It has been a while since our last power rankings, and much has changed in the NFL during that time. This should come as no surprise, the NFL is very bipolar.

Remember when the Arizona Cardinals were 4-0? They've fallen from the top five all the way to one of the worst teams in the NFL with a nine game losing streak. I honestly contemplated placing them last in these rankings, but good thing for them the Kansas City Chiefs still exist.

Oh, and don't look now, but the Cleveland Browns are on a three-game winning streak and are still mathematically alive in the weak AFC playoff race. Though, it is the Browns, so mathematically alive is not the same as actually alive. They have been a surprise team in the last month or so, but to be honest they never felt as bad as their record indicated. Their defense was keeping them in games, and it was only a matter of time before they ripped off a win or two.

Easily the story of the year is the Indianapolis Colts, who are now 9-4 and are in command of the No. 5 seed in the AFC. They have an outside shot at winning the division with two of their last three games coming against the division leading Houston Texans. Rookie QB Andrew Luck has this team playing well and they have rallied for their head coach, Chuck Pagano, who is battling leukemia.

Did I rank these teams correctly? If not, feel free to comment below.

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32. Kansas City Chiefs (2-11)

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The Chiefs got an emotional win over the Panthers last week after the tragic situation involving starting linebacker Javon Belcher, but fell back down to earth with a 30-7 loss to the Browns. I don't know if the owner will have sympathy for Romeo Crennel or Scott Pioli after they witnessed Belcher take his own life, but I imagine they'll both be gone after this season.

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31. Arizona Cardinals (4-9)

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After a 4-0 start the Cardinals have lost nine in a row and have a multitude of problems. Their offensive line is terrible and their quarterback situation is laughable. If they don't look to the draft to fix it they'll sign someone in free agency. Whatever they do, something has to change.

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30. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11)

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Yes, the Jacksonville Jaguars are awful, but they've actually been competing the last few weeks. They took the Texans to overtime, beat the Titans and almost came back to tie the game late against the Jets last week. But, they are still finding ways to lose and vying for the No. 1 pick in the draft next year.

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29. Oakland Raiders (3-10)

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The Oakland Raiders have lost six in a row and are one of the worst defensive teams in the NFL. The Carson Palmer experiment has been a drastic failure and they could be on the search for a head coach again after this season. If they are smart, they'll give Dennis Allen a year or two to figure it out.

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28. Philadelphia Eagles (4-9)

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Every assumes Andy Reid is out the door at the end of the season, but few are starting to speculate that if the Philadelphia Eagles finish strong they'll give it until his contract ends after next season. Nick Foles had his first good game of the year against the Buccaneers, and Reid has a history of developing quarterbacks. He might get another shot, but I doubt it.

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27. Tennessee Titans (4-9)

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The Tennessee Titans have been up and down all year, but their defense is awful and they've been unable to overcome that these last few weeks. Their offense has struggled at times as well. They have a ton of issues to sort out this off-season, and it could start with a new coach.

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26. San Diego Chargers (5-8)

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The San Diego Chargers kept their small playoff hopes alive with a win over the Steelers this weekend, but they need a ton of help if they're going to get in. Reports came out that Norv Turner and GM A.J. Smith will be out by season's end. All I can say is it's about time.

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25. Detroit Lions (4-9)

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It's been a disappointing season for the Detroit Lions to say the least. Calvin Johnson possibly breaking Jerry Rice's single-season receiving yards record could be the only positive. Matthew Stafford seems to have taken a step back in his development.

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24. Cleveland Browns (5-8)

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Don't look now, but the Browns are playing well and keeping their minute playoff chances alive. They have won three straight and their offense is starting to come around. They need to get more weapons for Brandon Weeden, but could be on their way to a playoff contender next season.

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23. Carolina Panthers (4-9)

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The Carolina Panthers actually don't have many holes, they just have to find a way to close out games. They lost to Atlanta by two, Seattle by four, Chicago by one, Tampa Bay by six in overtime, and Kansas City by six with them playing the game of their lives after the Javon Belcher tragedy. Against Atlanta, Chicago and Tampa Bay, they were winning those games late and blew all three in spectacular fashion. If they make the necessary plays to win these games, you're talking about a 9-4 team contending for the division, and at the very least 7-6 in contention for the Wild Card.

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22. Buffalo Bills (5-8)

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The Buffalo Bills thought they were improving their defense with the addition of Marcel Dareus last year, and Mark Anderson and Mario Williams this year. Unfortunately the defense has not gotten much better and been a big reason they are losing games. That and not getting C.J. Spiller involved enough.

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21. Miami Dolphins (5-8)

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The Miami Dolphins have done well when they take care of the football, unfortunately that hasn't happened often. They aren't explosive enough offensively and will need to get weapons on the outside for Ryan Tannehill.

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20. New York Jets (6-7)

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I cannot believe the New York jets are 6-7 and in playoff contention. With how much attention they've been getting with how horrid they are offensively, you would think the world is ending in New York. I suppose it is because when they lose, they lose in blowout fashion and when they win, they beat teams that are terrible. Other than the win over the Colts, they have no wins against teams with a winning record. They finish up with three teams under .500, so their playoff hopes are very much alive.

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19. New Orleans Saints (5-8)

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After their loss to the Giants, the New Orleans Saints are officially out of the playoff hunt. They are still mathematically alive, but realistically they have no shot. Drew Brees had two awful games recently, but they could still spoil the playoff hopes of a couple teams down the stretch. They play Tampa Bay and Dallas the next two weeks. In the end the defense was just too terrible to keep the Saints in games. They have serious issues and coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is on the hot seat.

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18. St. Louis Rams (6-6-1)

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The surprising St. Louis Rams have a three-game winning streak and their playoff hopes are all of a sudden very much alive. Steven Jackson is a physical anomaly and gets better as the season progresses. The defense keeps them in every game and Jeff Fisher has them believing in themselves.

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17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7)

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers blew an opportunity to stay alive in the Wild Card hunt, losing to the Eagles in the final seconds of their game. Josh Freeman and the offense is playing well, but the pass defense is getting burned week after week and the secondary could not even slow down rookie Nick Foles.

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16. Cincinnati Bengals (7-6)

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After blowing a nine point fourth quarter lead to the Cowboys, the Cincinnati Bengals find themselves on the outside of the AFC playoff chase. They still have a chance to make up for it, but a win would have put them one game ahead of the Steelers, who inexplicably lost to the Chargers.

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15. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6)

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Like the Bengals, the Pittsburgh Steelers blew a chance to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the AFC Wild Card teams, but it appears both teams weren't up to the task. The normally stingy Steelers defense gave up 34 points to Philip Rivers. That won't get it done if they make the playoffs, and it probably didn't help that Ben Roethlisberger played hurt.

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14. Dallas Cowboys (7-6)

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The Dallas Cowboys were 5-6 two weeks ago and faced with the likelihood of watching the playoffs from home, but have won two straight and came back to beat the Bengals despite being down by nine in the fourth quarter on the road. Their playoff hopes rest on Dez Bryant, who could be out for the rest of the year with torn hand ligaments. They are very much alive, but losing Bryant would be huge.

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13. Minnesota Vikings (7-6)

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I never expected the Minnesota Vikings to beat the Bears, but they kept themselves in the Wild Card chase by doing just that. Adrian Peterson has to be considered an MVP candidate as he approaches 2,000 rushing yards, and when Christian Ponder doesn't make mistakes they can beat anyone.

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12. New York Giants (8-5)

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The New York Giants were staring third place in the face as they watched Dallas and Washington each get to 7-6 with walk-off field goals, but responded by hammering the Saints at home 52-27. David Wilson emerged as a real threat, both offensively and on kick returns, but the Saints defense is soft. The Giants have huge road tests coming up against Atlanta and Baltimore, which will go a long way in deciding their playoff hopes.

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11. Washington Redskins (7-6)

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Since their 3-6 start and Mike Shanahan's comments indicating he was looking towards the off-season, the Washington Redskins have ripped off four straight wins, including three in a row against teams with winning records (currently). With games against Cleveland, Philadelphia and Dallas remaining, they could very easily win out. All they would need the Giants to do is lose one game in that scenario and the NFC East is Washington's. That would be an incredible turn around from a 6-10 season a year ago plus a 3-6 start this season.

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10. Chicago Bears (8-5)

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The Chicago Bears are not the same team without Brian Urlacher in the lineup and it showed Sunday. Adrian Peterson had 154 yards rushing and two touchdowns. They are hanging by a thread and have seen both their division lead and their Wild Card lead slip away in the past two weeks.

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9. Seattle Seahawks (8-5)

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The Seattle Seahawks have struggled on the road this season, but they got a terrific win for their confidence when they came from behind to beat the Bears last weekend. They have beaten six playoff teams and are as tough as it gets defensively. Oh, and they just beat a team 58-0 this weekend. Yeah, no one wants to face them in the playoffs.

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8. Baltimore Ravens (9-4)

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The Baltimore Ravens are another team coming apart at the seams. With Ray Lewis out and Terrell Suggs banged up, the defense is struggling. They also fired their offensive coordinator after their first back-to-back losses since 2009. Joe Flacco has been struggling of late, but the good news is both the Bengals and Steelers lost as well, keeping the Ravens' two-game division lead in tact.

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7. Indianapolis Colts (9-4)

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Yes, Andrew Luck has a bunch of turnovers that's led to many deficits, but he keeps coming up with the necessary plays to win games and the Indianapolis Colts are rallying around the rookie. They have gone from 2-14 a year ago to 9-4 and in command of the AFC Wild Card.

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6. San Francisco 49ers (9-3-1)

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The San Francisco 49ers are locked in a battle with the Packers for the No. 2 seed and a first round bye. They are one better in the loss column and have the head-to-head tie breaker with the Packers, but perhaps they should be worried about the surging Seahawks. The two teams have a huge showdown in two weeks, which could end up deciding the division. Colin Kaepernick is playing well and makes their offense much more dangerous.

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5. Denver Broncos (10-3)

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The Denver Broncos have won eight straight games and have already clinched the AFC West. They have a huge road test against the Ravens this week, but should contend for a first round bye, maybe even home-field advantage in the AFC. They need help, however, as they lost to the Texans who are already at 11 wins. Peyton Manning is my MVP thus far.

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4. Atlanta Falcons (11-2)

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The Atlanta Falcons are the least impressive 11-2 team I've ever seen. They have had one of the easiest schedules in the NFL and struggled to beat some low quality teams. They have a chance to send a message with the Giants coming to town this weekend, and I'm sure the Falcons will get the Giants' best shot.

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3. Houston Texans (11-2)

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The Houston Texans had a chance to make a statement that the AFC was theirs to lose, but got hammered by the Patriots. The Texans are hoping a rematch would happen on their home field, should it happen, but they have two tough games remaining against the Colts. Home field advantage is the Texans' to lose, but it won't be easy. Their defense has been getting burned through the air recently. They need Johnathan Joseph to get back to 100 percent; he is a big part of their success.

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2. Green Bay Packers (9-4)

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Despite a stumble against the Giants while they were struggling with a ridiculous amount of injuries, the Green Bay Packers have played extremely well since their 2-3 start. Aaron Rodgers is an MVP candidate, but the Packers struggle when teams get pressure on him. If the offensive line does not shore up its issues, they will have problems in the playoffs.

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1. New England Patriots (10-3)

Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots are playing lights out right now, winning seven in a row after their dismantling of the Texans on Monday Night Football. I guess we've just gotten used to Tom Brady dominating because nobody is talking about him for MVP, though he should be right in the middle of the discussion. Nobody wants to play this Patriots team riding a wave of momentum the way they are. The AFC should be terrified.

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