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Power Rankings: Denver Broncos close regular season at No. 1

Week 17 was ... uh ... er ... umm ... crazy? Ridiculous? Fun?

Ah, heck, pick your descriptive word. How do you explain the Steelers having every possible thing fall their way -- including the Chiefs' backups balling out -- only to lose out on a playoff spot thanks to a makeable miss from Ryan Succop? Then to have the NFL admit officials erred on the play? Oh, boy.

While we have inevitably focused on the winners on NFL Network and NFL.com, let's consider some of the reactions from the losers ...

Love that one. What about my take on taking my own tool box to Cleveland to be head coach?

Let me think about this .... No.

If it's for University of Phoenix, do you actually have to go anywhere to turn it in? Always wondered about that.

Yep, the Bills, Browns and Cowboys will all retire to a long offseason. Of course, we know that doesn't really exist in the NFL. So where does everyone in that group rank in our final (at least, until the week after the Super Bowl) league-wide Power Rankings? See below. We'll give you a hint: None of them are No. 32. ... SPOILER ALERT. As always, feel free to share your take -- @Harrison_NFL is the place.

Let the dissension commence ...

(Note: Arrows reflect change in standings from last week's Power Rankings.)

PREVIOUS: Week 17 | 16 |15 | 14 | 13 | 12 | 11 | 10 | 9 | 8 | 7 | 6 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | 1

RANK

1

13-3 BRONCOS

Well, it's gotten to the point that Peyton Manning has more skins on the wall than the guy who made up the expression "skins on the wall." Manning's record collection is beginning to rival that of your creepy upstairs neighbor who plays Keith Sweat for his OKCupid dates. While I still think Dan Marino's 1984 season is the most impressive passing performance of all time, let's give Manning his props. He's locked up his fifth MVP award -- and the Broncos are the best team in pro football.

RANK

2

13-3 SEAHAWKS

After another quality outing from the defense, the Seahawks have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. My guess is you heard that already, so maybe we're not breaking news here -- this "insider info" is akin to an alert that the hobbit wins in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." Well, here's something you didn't know: Seattle allows opponents to score touchdowns on just 35.3 percent of red-zone trips, best in the NFL. Inside the 30, the Seahawks have held opposing quarterbacks to a passer rating of 60.0 -- also best in the NFL, by a HUGE margin. The league average? 96.3 #LOB

RANK

3

12-4 PANTHERS

Enjoyed seeing Cam Newton after Sunday's win over the Falcons, as it is clear this guy has matured greatly since a drubbing at the hands of the Giants last year threw him into a towel-over-the-head pout. Newton just looks like a leader. Of course, that's easier to do when Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson make opposing quarterbacks feel more pressure than the top buttons of a Christina Hendricks button-down. Of Carolina's nine sacks on Sunday, six were courtesy of Hardy and Johnson.

RANK

4

12-4 49ERS

Yes, that was a close game in Arizona on Sunday, but really, who wants to play this team -- the hottest in the NFL -- right now? And who else can't wait for this weekend's matchup between the Niners and Packers at Lambeau? These squads have met for some incredible playoff games in the past, like the 1995 divisional-round match and "The Catch II." We are really looking forward to this one. Bet ya Frank Gore is, too, after seeing that Packer run defense. #SFvsGB

RANK

5

12-4 PATRIOTS

Dude, how about LeGarrette Blount? Talk all you want about the clutch performances Sunday, but don't overlook the man who wears No. 29 for the Pats. In 24 carries against the Bills, Blount ran for 189 yards -- Buffalo couldn't stop him. In fact, New England as a team rushed for 267 yards, finishing with more than 2,000 for the second straight season.

RANK

6

11-5 CHIEFS

The NFL admitted that an illegal-formation penalty should have been called on Ryan Succop's missed game-winning field-goal attempt, which would have given Succop another chance -- and that's certainly commendable. From the Chiefs' perspective, of course, it's also like being spanked at Monopoly, only for your opponent to confess, hours later, that he forgot to pay for the hotels he put on the green properties.

I watched Chiefs-Chargers from stem to stern, and I have to say, this team could win with Chase Daniel at quarterback. Kansas City is deep all the way around, and should give Indianapolis a much better game in the wild-card round than it did in Week 16.

RANK

7

11-5 SAINTS

It's odd when an 11-5 finish feels like a disappointment. This New Orleans football team rebounded from a 7-9 season and improved its defense from 32nd in yards allowed to fourth en route to securing a very winnable playoff matchup with the Eagles this Saturday. That's not to say that the Saints will win, but rather that they are certainly viable. We're thinking most organizations in the NFL would take this brand of disappointment.

RANK

8

11-5 BENGALS

Big ups to Bengals coordinator Mike Zimmer's defense, which won the day Sunday against the Ravens. Andy Dalton, meanwhile, tossed four picks, and none of them were acceptable. While Dalton has his defenders, and while we must acknowledge that he is still just a third-year pro, there's no question about this: Dalton is piloting a Super Bowl-quality team while personally playing at more of a wild-card level.

RANK

9

10-6 CARDINALS

Strong finish for the Cardinals, who, though they ultimately lost Sunday, did notably fight back from a 17-point deficit to even things up at one point against their nemesis from San Francisco. No one thought this club would win 10 games, and while there are no moral victories in the NFL (well, except in Dallas), how can Cardinals fans not feel good about this team? This is the best Arizona has been since 2009 -- except without the stress that a Hall of Fame quarterback might retire and thus sink the ship. This group will be back.

RANK

10

11-5 COLTS

What a matchup coming up at Lucas Oil on Saturday. Our playoff opener is a doozy, especially knowing that the Colts just handled the Chiefs in Week 16. We can Andrew Luck you to death here, but how about that Indy defense, which has allowed 20 points total in the past three games?

RANK

11

10-6 EAGLES

How many Philly fans were sweating bullets Sunday night when it looked like Kyle Orton was going to lead the Cowboys down the field at the end? Nice work by the Eagles' defense, which will never get the credit in Philadelphia that Chip Kelly's offense does. Defensive coordinator Billy Davis' group finished 17th in points allowed ... which is firmly in the middle of the pack. However, given the fact that Kelly is obsessed with scoring points and not burning clock, that defense figures to be good enough to potentially help Philly go deep in the playoffs.

RANK

12

8-7-1 PACKERS

5

That fourth-and-8 play is why we all watch football. Aaron Rodgers, playing for the first time in months ... rolling to his left with the season on the line ... looking deep and letting it fly ... against the rival Bears with less than a minute to play ... come on. #NFL

RANK

13

9-7 CHARGERS

We predicted San Diego would be the sixth seed way back in October, and we continued to stick with it, even after the Bolts dropped to 5-7. That was the result more of our stubbornness than football IQ, but whatever.

Look, everyone knows the Chargers got lucky Sunday. Now that they're in, they just need to ball out like they did in Denver in Week 15. That starts with pounding the Bengals on the ground, which means Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead should have 30 carries combined. On the road and against that pass rush, San Diego should not put the game on Philip Rivers.

RANK

14

8-8 BEARS

Tough home loss for Chicago, which faces big decisions. Before we look ahead with this team, let's take a glimpse in the rearview mirror. Most league observers think Marc Trestman did a nice job with the Bears, who finished 8-8. And that might be true. Of course, Lovie Smith finished 10-6 last year and was fired. This would probably be an appropriate time for a "just sayin' " hashtag, but really, that's all spilled milk. Has Jay Cutler passed his expiration date in Chicago, or will letting him sign elsewhere spoil the Bears' future? It's the toughest call in this upcoming NFL offseason.

RANK

15

8-8 STEELERS

1

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! @$%#%%#$%^#^#^#% Succop. I feel your pain, Steelers fans. Everything broke your way. Speaking of breaking things, I thought I had broken the good news when Ryan Succop lined up to attempt his very makeable kick, which would have secured a Chiefs win over the Chargers -- and a playoff spot for Pittsburgh. So sorry. Honestly.

All that said, well, not to be Positive Perry, but here's the deal: How about the character of this football team in going from 0-4 to 8-8? The Steelers' defense stepped it up Sunday versus the Browns, ensuring there was no drama ... at least on the Pittsburgh side of things. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau -- all 76 years of him -- did his job. Talk about telling AARP to go to hell.

RANK

16

8-8 RAVENS

1

Ravens fans are quite correct in pointing out the tough situation Joe Flacco was placed in this year, and we certainly admire the loyalty. But all those who would rank Flacco over the Philip Riverses, Tony Romos and Matt Ryans of the world just because Flacco has won a Super Bowl should remember that he finished 32nd in passer rating, has now completed fewer than 60 percent of his passes for three straight seasons and has yet to throw more than 25 touchdown passes in a year. Of course, it sure would help if John Harbaugh's staff could figure out a way to run the football. Maybe coaching the offensive line to open a two-foot hole would work.

RANK

17

8-8 COWBOYS

1

Helluva effort by that Cowboys defense, knowing that Neckbeard (sans neckbeard) was starting at quarterback. Holding the red-hot Eagles offense to 24 points was definitely not to be expected at this point in the season. Now, of course, the team has decisions to make regarding both the defensive and offensive coordinator positions. For those of you wondering: DeMarco Murray is under contract for 2014. But look out for a healthy -- and freaking explosive -- Lance Dunbar.

RANK

18

8-8 DOLPHINS

6

Huge drop? Yes. Worst performance in the league over the past two weeks? Yes. We missed one game in our Week 17 Game Picks column: Jets at Dolphins. Ryan Tannehill can point the finger privately, if that's what he's doing, at Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman all he wants.

People like Tannehill; the thought is that his upside is huge. But you can't get around how ugly those last two outings were for the quarterback: 30-of-67 (ouch!) passing for 286 yards, one touchdown and three picks. That's two poor showings in the two all-important games of Miami's season.

RANK

19

8-8 JETS

2

Nice gut-check win for the Jets, who made what I think was the right move in retaining coach Rex Ryan. The guy went 8-8 while starting a rookie quarterback in Geno Smith -- and with the general manager having traded the team's best player ( Darrelle Revis) away. No one expected the Jets to win that many games.

RANK

20

7-9 RAMS

1

With the Rams holding one pick in the top two and another in the top 15 of the 2014 NFL Draft, the 7-9 season that just ended becomes a little bit easier to digest. So what to do at quarterback? Talk about organizational decisions. Holy cow ...

RANK

21

7-9 GIANTS

2

For all of the negative chatter about the Giants, this team won seven of its last 10 games to finish 7-9. That's called playing for your head coach. So let's pose the question: Is Tom Coughlin (with his two Super Bowl rings) a Hall of Famer? Want to know your guys' thoughts ... @Harrison_NFL.

RANK

22

7-9 TITANS

Oh, such decisions to make regarding Mike Munchak and Jake Locker ... and after Chris Johnson made the future of the Titans even murkier by running hard in Week 17. No one wants Tennessee to scrap 2014, but is the team willing to move forward with the same cast of characters and go 7-9 again?

RANK

23

7-9 LIONS

3

Unbelievable. From sitting in the NFC North driver's seat at 6-3 to 7-9 and incapable of beating a 4-10-1 Vikings ballclub rolling with a guy named Matt Asiata at tailback. If you recall, the Lions did lose eight in a row last year, and although Jim Schwartz did lead Detroit to the playoffs in 2011, it was a classic one-and-done appearance. His dismissal surprised no one. Let's hope management doesn't take after its receivers and drop the ball on the new hire.

RANK

24

6-10 BILLS

Well, as one of my colleagues said Sunday, at least Fred Jackson came to play (113 yards from scrimmage with one score). Who can't wrap their arms around the kind of production brought by the running back who has become Buffalo's woobie? Actually, C.J. Spiller came to play in Week 17, too (133 total yards). Expect Jackson and Spiller to split time again in 2014.

The Bills' run defense needs to find some guys who are willing to share responsibility. That defense has potential, but how does the unit allow 267 yards on the ground to a divisional rival? That's getting hammered -- and it probably drove some Bills fans to do the same.

RANK

25

5-10-1 VIKINGS

Finishing 5-10-1 hurts, but this is a team I can see rebounding in 2014. The young pieces in the secondary and at wide receiver are only going to get better, while Adrian Peterson, Kyle Rudolph and Harrison Smith -- the nucleus -- should come back healthy.

Say this about former coach Leslie Frazier: He handled himself with class all the way. He has an interesting story, with his promising playing career as a starting corner for perhaps the greatest defense in NFL history cut short in Super Bowl XX thanks to a freak injury. He's the real deal in terms of his overall NFL résumé; things just didn't work out in Minnesota.

RANK

26

4-12 FALCONS

3

With so much turnover at head coach and quarterback among the teams at spots 27 through 29, Atlanta actually hopped three spaces, even after a close loss. Still, that was a tough way to finish up the regular season. Not that the effort was bad against Carolina; in fact, other than the pass protection, things played out quite well for Atlanta on Sunday at the Georgia Dome.

Oh, but that snap! Tony Gonzalez deserved a better ending to his career, that much is certain. The Falcons have much to think about, starting with shoring up the defense -- at all three levels -- as well as the offensive line and running back position. This will be a "best player available" kind of draft for Atlanta.

RANK

27

4-12 BUCCANEERS

1

Well, the Bucs finally let Mike Glennon use his right arm, with mixed results. And then they just flat-out let Greg Schiano go. Were they right to? That's an interesting debate. The Bucs were 11-21 in his two years at the helm, with plenty of drama in tow, like Victory Formation-gate and Freeman-gate. OK, come to think of it, maybe the debate is not that interesting ... there was definitely some cause here. Still, doesn't it make sense, even in this win-now business, to give a guy more than two years to turn his fortunes around?

RANK

28

4-12 JAGUARS

1

What a disappointing finish for the Jags, who looked like a formidable NFL team there for a few weeks. Oh well -- the world is filled with false advertising campaigns. Little purple pills, little blue pills, Jaguars football ... you know. Actually, we're counting on coach Gus Bradley to get this defense turned around next year. Will the team draft a quarterback with its high pick? We hope so. What becomes of Justin Blackmon is an even larger question.

RANK

29

4-12 BROWNS

1

Another loss for the Browns in Pittsburgh, but really, all a win would have done was hurt their draft position anyway. What is most interesting is how Brian Hoyer fits into the team's plans come 2014. The quarterback performed admirably before getting hurt, and the front office is allegedly quite high on him. Cleveland is on the hook to pay him just $1.25 million next year, so it's likely that Cleveland will draft a QB and keep Hoyer.

As far as fired coach Rob Chudzinski is concerned, if it really wasn't going to get better -- i.e., he was incapable of improving -- Browns management probably should have been able to discern that in the first place.

RANK

30

4-12 RAIDERS

Yuck showing by the Raiders in their home finale Sunday. At least Oakland made it tough for Peyton Manning to stay in the game ... by allowing him to score so many touchdowns. At this point, most think coach Dennis Allen is sticking, but given the fact that, though defense is Allen's discipline, the Raiders haven't finished in the top 25 in scoring defense in Allen's two seasons, well ... one has to wonder. For those keeping tabs at home, Oakland is 8-24 in two seasons under Allen and general manager Reggie McKenzie.

RANK

31

3-13 REDSKINS

Kirk Cousins did not look like the answer in New Jersey on Sunday. That's OK; Robert Griffin III looked like the question all season. No one thought this team would go 3-13 -- and now it will be looking for a new head coach. #HTTR

RANK

32

2-14 TEXANS

Until the Texans did it this season, no team had ever started 2-0 and finished 2-14. No, you can't blame all of that on Matt Schaub, as there are plenty of cracks in the dam: at the quarterback position, in the front seven and on special teams. Still, everyone knows this isn't a 2-14 squad.

Hey: Even if we all overrated the talent level here, getting the first overall pick in 2014 isn't exactly the worst thing ever.

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @Harrison_NFL.

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