NFL Power Rankings: Packers rising after Wild Card Weekend

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The Playoff Power Rankings are in, Divisional Round style, with the dirty dozen ranked below ...

... or perhaps 11 teams and a dirty 12th. That's the perception of the Bungled Bengals from fans after watching the finest example of giving away a playoff game you will ever see. It almost seems unfair ranking Cincy as low as 10th, until you see that the Vikings are ninth after a field-goal attempt in North Pole air went south quickly. More on that development later. More Steelers-Bengals fallout now:

At least it wasn't that really overused CGI, like the crummy end of "Return of the King."

Onward and upward. Or downward, for the teams that fell on the opening week of the NFL postseason. Take a look at the reshuffling below, and make your own assertions. Feel free to share, as well: @HarrisonNFL is the place.

Let the dissension commence!

NOTE: The lineup below reflects changes from our Jan. 5 Power Rankings.

PAST: Week 18 | 17 | 16 | 15 | 14 | 13 | 12 | 11 | 10 | 9 | 8 | 7 | 6 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | 1

RANK

1

15-1 PANTHERS

No movement for the top-ranked Panthers this week, yet there is one rather large development: Ron Rivera says Jonathan Stewart is set to suit up for practice on Wednesday. Who, with a season full of bumps and bruises under the belt, wants to tackle a fresh version of this hard-charging 235-pounder -- in weather that could get a bit nippy? Me neither. Welp, he's back, after missing the final three games of the regular season with a sprained foot. Stewart was the unheralded star in Carolina, a workhorse who at one point in the season posted eight straight games of 20-plus carries. His 989 rushing yards in 13 games, and physical style of play, were integral to the Panthers' success this season.

RANK

2

13-3 CARDINALS

1

It was a well-deserved week off for the Cardinals, and perhaps an opportunity to lick their wounds from the shellacking they took at the hands of the Seahawks in Week 17. In fairness, Bruce Arians did start pulling players in the second half (most notably, Carson Palmer), but you can't tell me that the embarrassing defeat isn't lingering in some players' heads.

On Saturday night, the Packers come to town for the second time in three weeks. Yes, Arizona whooped 'em 38-8 in Week 16. No, this doesn't look like the same Green Bay club that laid down in that game. (The reigning MVP kinda looked like the reigning MVP on Sunday.)

RANK

3

12-5 CHIEFS

1

Hard to not be impressed with the manner in which the Chiefs are playing football right now. It feels like they could beat a team full of Brett Favres. Jeremy Maclin's high-ankle sprain is a major concern, but how can you not move this team up after that resounding 30-zip road victory? As Bill Belichick said Sunday, per the Kansas City Star, there really is no blueprint for beating the team on an 11-game win streak: "The fact they haven't lost in so long, it's not like you can go to a game and say, 'Here's how this team has defeated them.' ... That just doesn't exist."

RANK

4

11-6 SEAHAWKS

2

The Seahawks move down after a win? OK, it's obviously not that Pete Carroll's group fared poorly. ( They won, of course, on the road. And in the playoffs, it's survive and advance.) Or even totally that they were quite fortunate to have the opposition yank a chip-shot game-winner. (Special teams are part of the game. And Steven Hauschka made all his kicks.) It has more to do with an offense that looked out of sorts most of the day, and the fact Seattle is coming off such a physically demanding game.

No one could argue the Chiefs weren't more impressive last weekend.

RANK

5

12-4 BRONCOS

Tough squad to rank here. Broncos fans have hammered Twitter saying they aren't getting any respect. Denver is a quality team, but please forgive us if we acknowledge that they are one of the weakest top seeds ever. These Broncos posted a 12-4 record in the regular season ... after a 7-0 start. They're flip-flopping at quarterback, and Sunday's starter finished second in the NFL in interceptions -- despite starting just nine games.

Does that mean they'll lose to the Steelers? No. Smelling a big game from No. 94 in orange.

RANK

6

12-4 PATRIOTS

Do we leapfrog the Patriots over the Broncos? It's tempting, given the return of Julian Edelman and Dont'a Hightower. Unless either of those guys can play some offensive line, though, I'm still seeing a pretty big problem here. The bye week provided the whole team with an opportunity to get healthier, but until we see healthy protection for Tom Brady -- or consistent functionality on offense -- we can't move New England.

I am looking forward to Saturday's game against K.C. more than any other in the Divisional Round. Yes, more than SEA@CAR. Sorry not sorry.

RANK

7

11-6 PACKERS

4

What was the difference between the Packers in Washington this past Sunday and the group that got buried in maroon at University of Phoenix Stadium in Week 16? Too bad the latter contest wasn't an online game. Forget next-day soreness -- Aaron Rodgers must've experienced all-the-way-until-Saturday soreness after that 38-8 shellacking a few weeks back. Green Bay's franchise QB did get protection Sunday at FedEx. More importantly, and in no particular order, Rodgers was the beneficiary of a second-half running game, a suddenly zippy Randall Cobb and a thefootballisallofasuddenstayinginmyhands Davante Adams.

RANK

8

11-6 STEELERS

1

Never had one, but something about an injured AC joint sounds quite painful. Merely thinking about the grinding in there, from the upper arm on in, is enough to worry about the Steelers' -- and potentially Landry Jones' -- prospects in Sunday's Divisional Round bout against the Broncos. Thank goodness Denver doesn't have a fierce pass rush with ridiculously talented edge rushers -- you know, guys like Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware ... Still, never count out these Steelers, especially if Fitzgerald Toussaint gets roll-ing. Wait for it.

RANK

9

11-6 VIKINGS

Everyone feels for Blair Walsh -- or at least everyone with a heart in their chest -- including the Power Rankings. The guy had to kick what's essentially a football-shaped rock in a sub-zero setting, laces facing him, with the season on the line, no less. And yes, he pulled it. Unfortunately, Walsh is more famous (or infamous) right now than he will ever be in the remainder of his life, barring a future Vinatieri miracle. Think about that for a second. And allow me to address all those former players who say idiotic things like, "He has one job to do: He NEEDS to make that kick!" Well, how many of those guys dropped footballs? Missed blocks? Missed tackles? Why isn't Captain Munnerlyn getting destroyed for overrunning Russell Wilson, which allowed the crafty QB to recover from an errant snap and hit Tyler Lockett for the biggest play of the game? Just asking.

RANK

10

12-5 BENGALS

2

What more can be said about the epic meltdown that hasn't been spewed for the last 48 hours? Social media had Marvin Lewis fired before Chris Boswell's kick had dented the net. That isn't happening -- as various reports tell us -- nor is any knee-jerking happening in Cincinnati. Mike Brown doesn't do knee jerk (even if he should). The meltdown to end all meltdowns Burfectly obscured a clutch AJ-to-A.J. connection late, didn't it? What a shame.

RANK

11

9-8 REDSKINS

1

Not the storybook ending to the season Kirk Cousins was hoping for ... Listening to the Westwood One broadcast late in the fourth quarter, Boomer Esiason pointed out that Cousins needed to throw the ball up for grabs, give his receivers a chance and not worry about interceptions. The implication with impending free agents like Cousins is that they are often too concerned with their numbers. Given that analytics are used so much today, and the future earnings involved, you can't blame any player for thinking that way. Yet, concerning Cousins, I think it's more likely that he is just so used to protecting the football (since his failures early in the year) that it is hard to turn that off, even when game situation mandates it.

RANK

12

9-8 TEXANS

Take an Advil and forget about it, Bill O'Brien.

But, after a brief football reprieve, please start worrying about the quarterback position. I don't want to overreact off the wild-card game and say Brian Hoyer is not the guy. But, well ... Brian Hoyer is probably not the guy. If Hoyer can build his game off the terrible performance (five turnovers), then big ups to him. But with that defense, DeAndre Hopkins and a healthy Arian Foster -- OK, that's certainly no guarantee at this point -- this team could be special with some proper QB play.

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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