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NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Patriots rule regular season

The end-of-regular-season NFL Power Rankings are upon us. Call it a time to take stock, look back and, for several teams around the league, look ahead.

Perhaps no organization fits that bill more than the one in the Bay Area. No, not the Raiders -- I didn't say "look away." We mean the other guys.

Nothing snarky to add here. It just is what it is, as Bill Parcells would say.

On to other matters, such as the MVP race, which has been a big topic of conversation as of late. After much deliberation -- and seeing how the playoff field shook out -- here is how I would rank the NFL's most valuable players for 2014:

All of those guys played for winning teams this season, with only Watt being on a non-playoff club -- and one that falls outside of the top 10 below. As always, we love hearing your take on the rankings: @HarrisonNFL is the place. I'm sure that if you don't disagree with my MVP accounting, the following will deliver in that regard. Oh, and Happy Playoffs, everybody!

Let the dissension commence!

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

Elliot Harrison explains his ranking process on "The Power Rankings Show" and serves as lead analyst on the "Team Report Cards" series, which you can watch at or via the NFL NOW app. Follow Elliot on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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So it looked dicey for a half on Sunday, but the defending champs eventually took care of business. And for the second straight season, Seattle will force NFC teams to visit the toughest place to play in the NFL. We caught some phaser fire for our reference to the Organian Peace Treaty last week, so we won't go there again. On a football note, it is amazing how many parsecs Earl Thomas covers out there at safety.

Sure, they lost, but what can we really take away from that game? It wasn't too much fun watching backups play with backups -- some of these dudes might be making an Acai Super-Antioxidant at Jamba Juice this offseason. We didn't need a heavier dosage of Brian Tyms, James White and Steve Maneri. Couldn't we get a few more household names in there, like Jonas Gray and Michael Hoomanawanui?

(New England will be just fine.)

Congratulations to the Packers, who overcame a fumble deep in Lions territory, a blocked Mason Crosby field-goal attempt and, of course, an injury to the most famous set of calves this side of Carrie Underwood. #MVP

Yes, in the MVP race, Tony Romo will have to take a back seat to Aaron Rodgers -- but not to many others, and definitely not to anyone else on his own team. (Sorry, DeMarco.) Romo fell one completion shy of posting a 70.1 percent success rate on the season. And did I mention that he led the NFL in passer rating (113.2) and yards per attempt (8.52)?

Oh, so I guess Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett meant what they said about playing the starters, and playing to win. Our bad.

Another run-pass ratio close to 50:50 for the Broncos on Sunday. Perhaps more importantly, the return of Ronnie Hillman not only allows C.J. Anderson to stay fresh, but it gives the coaching staff more opportunity to make Peyton Manning a game manager ... er ... I mean, run a balanced offense. Wouldn't it be ironic if Manning won his second Super Bowl as something closer to a Brad Johnson clone then Robo Quarterback 2000?

The NFL is better when the Steelers are in the playoffs. Call it tradition. Call it the uniform, if you will. Yet, if Le'Veon Bell can't go Saturday, this Wild Card Weekend is going to feel a bit empty. With him healthy, Pittsburgh can knock off anyone in the AFC.

We're not going to say "same old Lions." We are going to repeat another familiar mantra: Matthew Stafford is the X factor in these playoffs. Sure, his offensive line has had its woes, but if you see Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate as a good 1-2 punch (trust me, you do), Stafford has the weapons to make plays. As far as Ndamukong Suh goes, well, what do you want to hear? At this point in his career, his greatness only barely outweighs his capacity to distract. I'm sure he did not mean to step on the injured leg of the guy who was destroying his defense Sunday.

We would be willing to move Arizona down if we had definitive word that Drew Stanton can't play -- at this point, his situation is up in the air. Meanwhile, mixed bag for Ryan Lindley on Sunday, but overall, there were some signs of life from the offense. Even if the Cardinals don't get much from the quarterback Saturday, perhaps they can pull off something similar to that upset in Carolina back in the 2008 playoffs. Does anyone remember that interception fest?

Figured Chuck Pagano would play his starters for a while, irrespective of the playoff-seeding picture, as the Colts' prior three games were uninspiring offensively: narrowly winning at Cleveland, stalling repeatedly versus Houston and getting trucked in Dallas.

Nice rebound for Mark Sanchez and the Eagles, who did not mail it in Week 17, finishing what they started the best they could. While the postseason was out of the question, coaches in this situation who stick with veterans who earned their roles (as opposed to taking a peek at rookies) will always be in. Nice call, Chip.

Worried about these Bengals. You realize that, despite having twice as many wins as losses, this team has only outscored its opponents by 21 points? That points to a lot of escaping -- and getting rocked a few times. Before #WhoDey nation starts jumping all over me, just remember who was lobbying for Jeremy Hill to be lead back months ago. Still, I have to ask: Are you worried, Bengals fans? (@HarrisonNFL)

So proud of Bill O'Brien and the Texans right now. To heck with the playoffs -- 9-7 is much better than most people thought this team could be ... and the team didn't even have its top draft pick most of the season. I mean, if Odell Beckham Jr., Zack Martin and Mike Evans were this good, and Jadeveon Clowney was the consensus No. 1 pick, then ...

Big ups to the Japanese haiku I received in my Twitter inbox last week. Clearly, it gave Baltimore some extra mojo on Sunday, as the Ravens earned a wild-card slot when a lot of people (myself included) didn't see it happening. I do think the entire team should buy Justin Houston some Justin Forsett Fatheads for getting after Philip Rivers all day at Arrowhead. Do they make Forsett Pez dispensers? That might be creepy. #playoffs

Nice way to end the season for the Chiefs. Apparently, Kansas City wide receivers wanted so badly not to score a touchdown -- consistency is king -- that Dwayne Bowe had to fumble at the goal line, giving tight end Travis Kelce the score. That's giving it up for the team, folks. If you're wondering why K.C. didn't ascend, the dearth of talent outside and the injured quarterback made this team slightly less strong than Baltimore. That's it, before you holler at me.

I was trying to rank the biggest disappointments/letdowns of the Chargers' 9-7 season. OK, here goes ...

 Ryan Mathews once again being 
 Ryan Mathews after a one-year hiatus. 
 **2)** Being forced to scour the local Joe's Crab Shack for a center. (When it comes to San Diego seafood huts, I prefer Poseidon, but I digress.) 
 Philip Rivers getting treated like the turkey in a 
 Chiefs pass-rush sandwich. 
 Jason Verrett sitting down in the cold tub more often than he sat down in zone coverage. 
 **5)** Blown opportunities 
 versus the Patriots in Week 14. ( 
 Chargers fans like New England almost as much as Los Angeles.) 

Great to see Buffalo finish 9-7 despite benching the franchise (?) quarterback and losing Kiko Alonso before the season even began. Still, questions abound for this organization. Is the EJ Manuel project done? Ditto C.J. Spiller. Should the team start a bit rougher in 2015, will Doug Marrone -- presuming he chooses to stay -- be on shaky footing? Sammy Watkins, incidentally, had himself a fine rookie season, falling 18 yards short of 1,000 while catching 65 balls.

Not entirely sure about all this chatter that Carolina could be a tough out in these here playoffs. ... Then again, over the last four games, the Panthers have allowed all of 43 points. And in four of the last five, the opposing offense hasn't even breached the 300-yard threshold. So basically, what we're saying is, Carolina could be a tough out in these here playoffs.

Random musing from an unbiased third party: If you have a head coach who enjoys unprecedented success in his first three seasons, and your organization is on the precipice of winning a Lombardi Trophy all three years, it might be imperative to not let a management-employee situation become tenuous in the first place. Work it out. Don't play any role in creating a distraction that helps lead to an 8-8 season. If said coach wants to bury himself with his behavior, so be it. Then the perception will be that the franchise did all it could for its fan base within reason, rather than leaving people to wonder aloud where the team will find a better coach than the unhappy one who just left for a college job. Regardless of fault -- or the merits of a .500 campaign -- this 49ers situation smacks of one unbelievably similar deal 20 years ago, one that involved San Francisco's former arch rival in Dallas: yes, the Jimmy Johnson-Jerry Jones power struggle.

Dolphins fans must feel like they're stuck in a long-term marriage with mediocrity at this point ... going to Home Depot on the weekends, trampoline in the backyard and an Astrovan -- complete with Bernie Parmalee bumper sticker -- sitting in the driveway. Heard from many Miami fans this week on Twitter, and it is easy to understand the consternation surrounding another 8-8 campaign. Beat writer Omar Kelly knows what I'm talking about ...

Strong finish for the Vikes, their fans and their rookie head coach. I still remember when Mike Zimmer was a first-year defensive backs coach for the Dallas Cowboys 20 years ago. He did a great job with Larry Brown, Kevin Smith, Darren Woodson and James Washington. Dallas fielded the league's No. 1 defense that season. Nine years later, he had already moved up to defensive coordinator, but new head coach Bill Parcells wanted to shift the D to a 3-4 front. Eventually, Parcells chose to trust Zim and his 4-3 ... and was rewarded with a No. 1 ranking. Nebraska came after Zimmer to be a head coach then. He stayed in Big D. Ten years later, he has made the most of his first HC gig. Minnesota is lucky to have him.

Rams fans need something different to hang their horns on than the "We played 'em tough this year" mantra. Yes, played 'em tough enough to go 6-10, one win fewer than each of the last two seasons. With question marks surrounding the future of the franchise, the time to make a move is now. (Not to L.A., but in the standings.) It starts with management. That doesn't necessarily mean firing people; rather, it's about changing the approach. Time for a bold move. Quarterback is a nice place to start. And no, I am not implying a Jay Cutler transaction.

Glad Johnny Manziel has seen the error of his ways. Would have been nice if this realization had come during Week 3 of the preseason, but we'll take the day after the season ends, said no Browns fan ever. While some are speculating that the organization will not tolerate poor behavior and Manziel is already on the ropes somewhat, can the club really afford to wash its hands of three first-round draft picks in three years? Brandon Weeden is hip-bumping guys in Dallas after throwing garbage-time 9 routes. Trent Richardson is still running into his own blockers in Indy, and now this? Ugh. Oh, yeah -- let's not forget about Justin Gilbert's lost rookie season, either.

Sean Payton promised changes on Monday: "We're not just gonna patch a few holes here and throw the ball out there next year." OK. So I'm guessing Rob Ryan will be unemployed for longer than five minutes this offseason.

The Tom Coughlin question has been cleared up. He will indeed be back in 2015. But the elephant remains in Big Blue's room: Is Eli Manning on the decline? Not every quarterback can play until he's 38. It sure seemed like Manning lacked a little mustard on that critical fourth-quarter pick in Sunday's loss to the Eagles. We could be looking at the late stages of a Hall-of-Very-Good career. The Jerry Reese-Coughlin-Manning triumvirate is getting another crack. Yet the cracks in Manning's game still need spackling.

While many were ready to see Mike Smith get his walking papers, bear in mind he was the most successful head coach in team history. Older fans in Atlanta remember the same vibe surrounding Leeman Bennett, who took the club to the playoffs three times in six seasons, including his last. The Falcons didn't make the playoffs for the next eight seasons after Bennett's dismissal. Just a thought.

Another coaching change, another rudderless team. Head coach Rex Ryan and GM John Idzik got the axe on Monday. (Guess which one will find new employment first. I'll give you a hint: Rex.) On another note, I wonder if some Jets fans were waiting for security to unzip Geno Smith on Sunday in Miami ... "I would have gotten away with a perfect passer rating if it hadn't been for those meddling kids!"

Oh my: Three straight teams, three straight blurbs about coaching changes. Huge decisions loom for whomever takes over as GM in Chicago. The Bears need a new head coach, as well as a game plan for the Jay Cutler albatross. Related note: How cool is it to have a 91-year-old woman in the owner's box who is genuinely "pissed off" about the state of her team? Yep, she is definitely George Halas' daughter. Go Bears.

Rumors flew around about Jay Gruden's perch as head coach not being overly safe. Of course, a lot of this stemmed from the public nature of his poor relationship with quarterback Robert Griffin III. Well, colleague Ian Rapoport reports that both will be back in 2015. Here's a question, though: Has RGIII shown us anything over the past two seasons that should make him the starter next fall? Seriously, gimme one reason. I'll wait patiently. (@HarrisonNFL)

Not sure if the Jaguars could possibly play any uglier offensively than they did in Houston. Seriously, that was offensive offensive football. That said, we still feel Gus Bradley deserves another year at the helm. Unfortunately, one of Bradley's best players, Sen'Derrick Marks, tore his ACL in Sunday's finale, putting a huge damper on a breakout campaign. Fortunately, he had already notched a $600,000 bonus on a game-ending sack one week prior. The Football Gods aren't all bad, I suppose.

So, yes, apparently Jon Gruden is out of the picture now. (And forgive me for remaining skeptical about that longer than most, as I continue to believe that broadcasting contracts can't simply prohibit someone who has a passion for coaching from coaching.) And in case you've been reading Us Weekly for the last two weeks, Jim Harbaugh is the new head coach at Michigan. So, who's still out there? To me, the best head-coaching candidate is Todd Bowles, the Arizona Cardinals' defensive coordinator. Yes, I know the Raiders need somebody to help Derek Carr's development, but there are plenty of instances of young quarterbacks thriving under coaches whose previous discipline was on the defensive side of the ball. (There's a pretty good example of this in New England, no?) If you find the right quarterback coach and/or offensive coordinator, the head coach's defensive background isn't such a big deal.

Not a lot of positive vibes coming out of Tampa Bay these days, but this should be an interesting offseason. The offensive line has to be fixed, Josh McCown must be re-calibrated (or flat replaced) and the defense ... that is an issue. The Buccaneers have invested a lot of money in a D that performed miserably much of the season. OK, they suffered some injury woes, but still ... The Bucs gave up an astounding 244 plays of 10-plus yards. Yes, that was the most in the league.

No one thought Ken Whisenhunt's initial season with the Titans would go like this. The defense couldn't stop the run, but at least the offense made up for it by not blocking for Bishop Sankey. What a disappointment. Speaking of which ... Jake Locker. The guy has played in 30 of the Titans' 64 games during his four-year career. I have Tennessee's biggest needs as 1) QB; 2) front seven; 3) wide receiver; 4) offensive line; 5) take your pick. Thoughts, Titans fans? (@HarrisonNFL)

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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