NFL Power Rankings, Week 17: Seattle Seahawks reclaim No. 1

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A few quarterbacks flat-out did not want to leave their teams' playoff fates to the football gods last weekend. And it shows in this week's NFL Power Rankings ...

Matt Ryan was dealin' in New Orleans on Sunday, while Cam Newton showed true grit in the Panthers' win over Cleveland. Consequently, those two will face off for the NFC South crown on Sunday. Meanwhile, Tony Romo was nearly perfect in clinching his own division title, and Russell Wilson provided a personal showcase of his talents Sunday night that could impact MVP voting.

Most impressive to me, however, was one Philip Rivers, who overcame his own mistakes, played through pain and delivered a Hall of Fame drive to keep San Diego in the thick of the playoff hunt. The Chargers jump up three spots this week. Elsewhere ...

Valiant effort, Alex ... valiant effort.

Baltimore Ravens football: Big in Japan.

Yup, another absurd run from Mr. Lynch. (And Mr. Wilson's TD scamper wasn't too shabby, either.) Josh might be onto something with Seattle's upward mobility, as you'll see when you take a gander below. Feel free to share your thoughts on any team: @HarrisonNFL is the place. In addition to airing the entire "Power Rankings Show" on NFL NOW, we even showcase some of your tweets in the "piling on" vein. That's always a good time. Until then ...

... let the dissension commence!

(Note: Arrows reflect change in standings from the most recent Power Rankings.)

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

RANK

1

11-4 SEAHAWKS

2

That was nothing short of championship football we all witnessed Sunday night. Seattle darn near played a perfect second half. Steven Hauschka's missed kicks aside, it is becoming increasingly difficult to foresee a team knocking off the defending champs. If we had to nitpick anything, it would be all the penalties -- maybe someone could show Michael Bennett the neutral zone. (It's that area of space between the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire, as set forth by the Organian Peace Treaty.)

RANK

2

12-3 PATRIOTS

1

While it is certainly not time to panic in New England -- the Jets always play this team tough -- Tom Brady could certainly benefit from not having the entire game on his shoulders. The Patriots ran the ball 24 times on Sunday, which seems relatively normal ... until you investigate the fine print and see that seven of those totes were credited to Brady. The future Hall of Famer averaged just 5.2 yards per throw, partially because New York didn't have to respect a balanced offense. Listen to Mr. Miyagi: Balance.

RANK

3

11-4 PACKERS

1

I fully realize Packers fans want to win every game 55-14, but sometimes a 20-3 result is just as sweet. OK, so Green Bay had some drives bog down, but there was no reason for Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers to take chances, not with how the defense was playing. And owning 38:38 of game clock by running the football bodes much better for playoff success at uber-cold Lambeau than Rodgers pumping you up 50 times throwing it. (See: The Patriots blurb just above.)

RANK

4

11-4 COWBOYS

1

So where are all those fans who wanted Dallas to take Johnny Manziel right about now? At "Twin Peaks," watching Midwestern State take on West Texas A&M? Very quietly, Tony Romo has entered the MVP discussion; and if you ask me, you can't merely attribute it to DeMarco Murray's rise to stardom. No, it has something to do with 77, 65, 72, 70 and 68 up front. Still uncomfortable giving the quarterback his due, Romo haters? Then how about splitting the award five ways?

RANK

5

11-4 BRONCOS

3

Tough loss for Peyton Manning and Co. in a downpour at Cincinnati. Should we be concerned? Was it Manning's arm or a slippery ball that produced some of those throws? I was watching the game with Akbar Gbajabiamila at NFL Network on Monday night, and the big man put it simply: "I do NOT trust Denver right now." Broncos fans: anomaly or trend? (@HarrisonNFL)

RANK

6

11-4 LIONS

2

Congratulations to Lions fans, who will have something different to do in January than watching the Pistons suck and shoveling snow. While Detroit continues to play down to its competition, the franchise did hit 11 wins, something that's only been accomplished three other times in Lions history (1931, 1962, 1991). And fans shouldn't worry about Matthew Stafford and the passing game, because that 1931 team had trouble throwing, too. Of course, those guys were chucking around a bloated leather volleyball ...

RANK

7

10-5 STEELERS

3

On a day when the run game was nowhere to be found and Ben Roethlisberger was not throwing the ball all over the park, Dick LeBeau's defense made many timely plays. Seemed like every time Alex Smith put a drive together, it would stall like a 1991 Topaz, causing Cairo Santos to trot out for another field goal. Outstanding pressure, Pittsburgh put on Smith. I just typed that sentence like Yoda. Dick LeBeau is kind of like Yoda. OK, let's move on.

RANK

8

10-4-1 BENGALS

3

The #WhoDey crowd freaked out after Andy Dalton's early pick-six. And the sight of A.J. Green wincing in pain didn't help Bengal backers' emotional makeup. Fortunately, the defense stepped up and delivered. Forget the interceptions for a moment. Peyton Manning looked confused multiple times during the rainy evening. Alright, now it's OK to remember the interceptions. #WhoDeyDre

RANK

9

11-4 CARDINALS

2

Well, the Cardinals didn't set a franchise record for most yards allowed (despite giving up 596 to Seattle). Unfortunately, they also didn't set a franchise record for wins. But look on the bright side: Ryan Lindley's record streak of career pass attempts without a touchdown forges on -- 225 and counting!

RANK

10

9-6 EAGLES

1

Opportunity missed by the Philadelphia Eagles, who have far more than Mark Sanchez to blame for their late-season woes. You can start in the secondary; I've received plenty of feedback on Twitter about Bradley Fletcher in that regard. I give my regards to Chip Kelly, who said himself, "We have no one to blame but ourselves."

RANK

11

10-5 COLTS

5

Have provided this advice to other coaches and will now give it to Chuck Pagano (free of charge!): Take the game film and chuck it, Chuck. Given the state of the running game and the middling defense, it's obvious Indy can ill afford any more injuries or Andrew Luck turnovers. Not in the playoffs, anyway, as the Titans unfortunately won't be on the schedule. Luck can still beat any team on any given day, but it's hard to overlook the fact that the Colts have appeared so underwhelming against teams with double-digit wins. OK, so they stomped the Bengals in Week 7. Since then, though, they've been blown off the field by Pittsburgh, New England and Dallas. Those three clubs beat Indianapolis by a combined score of 135-61. That is not a typo.

RANK

12

9-6 CHARGERS

3

I will say it until I am (powder) blue in the face: People who don't like Philip Rivers need to check themselves. Yes, he's animated. But his opponents respect him and, most importantly, he engenders that respect because of how much he cares. Wouldn't it be nice if every quarterback, like some recently benched ones, cared just a wee bit more? By the way, that 14-play drive to tie the game in San Francisco was the NFL at its best.

RANK

13

8-7 TEXANS

4

The way the Texans' defense is balling, it's awfully difficult to write them off from this playoff deal. Houston picked Joe Flacco three times Sunday, while forcing the Ravens to punt eight times. Flacco went 21 of 50. That's 29 incompletions, for you non-math majors out there.

RANK

14

8-7 CHIEFS

2

Another nice showing from Alex Smith, but once again, the Chiefs' offense has the firepower of Switzerland. Pretty clear K.C. needs to spend some money (and/or draft capital) on the receiving corps this coming offseason.

RANK

15

9-6 RAVENS

1

Crippling loss for the Ravens, and now the vultures are circling. Baltimore is hanging on in the playoff race, but it's not looking good. If the season ended today, Pittsburgh and San Diego would be your AFC wild cards. That home loss to the Chargers a few weeks back might be the one Ravens fans regret the most.

RANK

16

8-7 DOLPHINS

Spoke with Chris Perkins, who covers the Dolphins for the Sun-Sentinel, before Sunday's matchup with the Vikings in Miami. He affirmed that the energy around the stadium made it feel like a game between two teams that weren't playing for much. Those fans who actually got into it, though, were treated to a wild one that included a 41-point fourth quarter and that rarest of all rarities -- an outcome decided by a safety. Actually, the Dolphins won a game on a safety last season, as well. Let's see if Joe Philbin's group can avoid going 8-8 for the second straight season.

RANK

17

8-7 BILLS

4

What a dud performance from the Bills in Oakland. Bills Mafia: How the heck does this defense let that offense rack up 140 rushing yards? Kyle Orton's drive-to-drive performance reflects the consistency of the Griswold kids from movie to movie.

RANK

18

7-8 49ERS

1

While moving the Niners up a spot is less than desirable, the Rams getting manhandled at home simply necessitated the shift. Of course, shifting into offseason mode seems to be all the rage these days when it comes to fans of this organization. Yet, despite the loss, Jim Harbaugh's players certainly look like they're still playing for him. Unfortunately, they ran into a Hall of Fame second-half performance from Philip Rivers.

RANK

19

6-9 RAMS

1

It was the defense, of all things, that let the Rams down at home on Sunday. In what should have been a mismatch at the line of scrimmage, the underdog Giants' offensive line had its way with St. Louis' front four most of the afternoon. In fact, the only Rams sack came from safety T.J. McDonald. At least they made up for it by allowing more than 120 yards rushing.

RANK

20

6-8-1 PANTHERS

3

Big props to Cam Newton, who came back from his car accident in pretty clutch fashion, making athletic plays outside of the pocket while leading the Panthers to their second-most-important win of the season (second to only the blowout victory in New Orleans). Now, I'm fully cognizant that Cam's not 100 percent. But having him take off more -- à la Russell Wilson -- sure would force opposing defenses to adjust their thinking.

RANK

21

7-8 BROWNS

1

Regardless of what Johnny Manziel showed in limited work at Carolina, the thought here is that the young quarterback will be much better in 2015 if he has Brian Hoyer around to compete with him. To let Hoyer go elsewhere would mean virtually handing the starting gig to a guy who might not be ready to handle the role, on and off the field.

RANK

22

6-9 GIANTS

2

For quite some time, I felt that Cowboys guard Zack Martin would be the Offensive Rookie of the Year, beating out Buccaneers WR Mike Evans. Scratch that. Odell Beckham Jr. officially won the award in my mind on Sunday. The 80-yard touchdown was about as in your face as it gets, considering the Rams' defense had taken some extra shots at him in preceding action. Big touchdown, too, as it gave the G-Men a two-score lead heading into the fourth quarter. Oh, and that was Beckham's eighth straight game with 90-plus receiving yards (and third straight with 130-plus).

RANK

23

6-9 FALCONS

2

I'm not entirely sure where Matt Ryan stacks up among the best quarterbacks in the game today -- off the cuff, I'd place him near the bottom of the top 10 -- but he played like an NFL great on Sunday, when his team needed it most. Yes, he certainly made the grade in my book.

RANK

24

6-9 VIKINGS

2

Definitely disappointing to not come out of Miami with a "W," yet there are still so many reasons to be enthusiastic about this team. Teddy Bridgewater continues to prove that trading up to draft him was the right move, as the rookie quarterback logged his third 110-plus passer rating in the past four games. The culprit for Minnesota on Sunday was the defense, which simply could not get off the field on third down.

RANK

25

6-9 SAINTS

4

Hard to believe the Saints will be sitting at home in January. Harder to believe they are 6-9. What's hardest to believe is that they've lost five in a row at the Superdome, having been outscored 71-24 in the last two. This was considered the second-toughest place to play -- next to Seattle's CenturyLink Field -- coming into the season. Now it might be the easiest. #defense

RANK

26

4-11 REDSKINS

2

Because it was a Saturday game, and it was followed by one of the top contests of the season, the Redskins' upset is already dipping lower in the rearview. It shouldn't. Washington's win reflected everything that is great about division battles, with the Redskins showing up to knock an obviously stronger team out of the playoffs in front of a crowd all too enthusiastic about a team well under .500. Good stuff.

RANK

27

5-10 BEARS

1

Well, Jimmy Clausen didn't exactly "light it up," as predicted by some in his own locker room, but at least Clausen looked like he was trying to compete out there. Not that it mattered -- the Bears' offensive line vs. the Lions' front seven represents almost as large a mismatch as Jay Cutler and a $126 million contract.

RANK

28

3-12 JAGUARS

2

Nice win for the Jags, who continue to play for their coach and display some building blocks to ... uh ... build on in 2015. Blake Bortles will receive the coverage in that area, which is to be expected. That's OK. His size, ability to move in and out of the pocket and arm strength were all on display Thursday night. Get that kid the right coaching, and this franchise won't be down long.

RANK

29

3-12 JETS

You know how you hear all that hullaballoo about "This is a division game" and "You can throw the records out the window" and "Jerome Bettis is from Detroit"? OK, maybe the last statement doesn't apply here, but the Jets certainly proved the first two on Sunday. Peaks and Valleys could be the epitaph for Rex Ryan's tenure in New York, yet one thing you can say for sure: This team plays for him. That certainly showed in what might have been his last home game as Jets head coach. Methinks he'll get a job doing something that involves an oblong pigskin somewhere this offseason.

RANK

30

3-12 RAIDERS

1

You know things are going well for Raider Nation when Darren McFadden starts busting runs. "McFadden with another huge gain!" said no one since 2011 ... until Sunday! Let's also give the defense credit for balling out against a Bills team that had its sights on the playoffs. Maybe that team jumped the gun a bit circling "Oakland" on its schedule as a win.

RANK

31

2-13 BUCCANEERS

4

Everything about that game Sunday was gross. Quarterback play, run game, run defense. It was ugly. All that said, before we pick on Josh McCown or Doug Martin, let's point out that the front office must tackle Eddie Lacy. Sorry, I mean the front office must tackle the offensive-line woes.

RANK

32

2-13 TITANS

Another disappointing loss in Jacksonville, for sure, but you can't tell me Charlie Whitehurst didn't make some quality throws throughout the evening. Would have been kind of nice to make another to Delanie Walker at the end. That's football.

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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