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NFL Power Rankings, Week 14: Green Bay Packers rise to No. 1

'Tis the season to give thanks, for playoff-push football is upon us ...

... and so are the Week 14 NFL Power Rankings.

With merely a month to go, the AFC wild-card race will be a dogfight, with one team at 8-4, six teams at 7-5 and another at 6-6. Playoff action on the NFC side is a bit more cut-and-dried. A bit. The Packers, Eagles and Cardinals are all lodged at 9-3, so the battle for home-field should be great theatre. The limp for the NFC South -- with every team at least two games under .500 -- is a different story.

On to other races ...

Aaron Rodgers is the best player on the hottest team in the league. J.J. Watt has been amazing, no doubt, but he's playing for a 6-6 club. And I'm sorry, but here's the honest truth: Quarterbacks are generally more valuable than defensive ends in today's game. Just look at last season. The Packers got eight healthy games out of Rodgers, and the team ended the season with eight wins. Meanwhile, the Texans got 16 healthy games out of Watt -- and finished with a league-low two wins. Can you ever imagine a team with Rodgers under center for all 16 games going 2-14? Value = wins, people.

So we attempt to sort out the aforementioned wild-card contenders, home-field hopefuls and NFC South flunkies below. And as for the rest of the teams, well, those are there, too. As always, feel free to share your take: @HarrisonNFL is the place.

Let the dissension commence!

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

PREVIOUS RANKINGS: Week 13 | 12 | 11 | 10 | 9 | 8 | 7 | 6 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | 1

Tell me Green Bay fans weren't freaking out when Davante Adams dropped that would-be touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. That drop had me reminiscing about this prospect at Texas State. On to other matters: As much disagreement as the Power Rankings seem to spawn, can you possibly find a hotter team than Green Bay? We've seen what New England has done to the rest of the NFC North this year (beating the division's other three teams by a combined score of 115-39). We've seen New England smack around other division leaders. Not Sunday.

Yes, the Patriots lost at Lambeau. Big whoopie. What a game. If Sunday was a Super Bowl preview, then we are due for a much better matchup than the last time these two franchises faced off on Super Sunday. On another note, Tom Brady's visceral reaction when Randall Cobb caught the game-clinching first down showed you precisely why he's the best quarterback the NFL has seen since Joe Montana hung 'em up 20 years ago.

Heckuva day for C.J. Anderson -- heckuva week for Cal running backs. Anderson poured it on with 168 rushing yards, leading a talented triumvirate of former Cal Bears that included Justin Forsett (106 yards) and Marshawn Lynch (104). Unlike his Berkeley brethren, though, Anderson wasn't drafted. You can say the threat of Peyton Manning opened up his running lanes, but that would qualify as lazy analysis. Anderson ran hard, through arm tackles and with purpose Sunday night.

Mark Sanchez, take a bow, man. What an efficient, effective outing from one of the most maligned quarterbacks in NFL history. That's no exaggeration. He has taken heat from all corners of God's green Earth, yet he was masterful Thursday, knowing precisely where to go with the ball every single snap. My question for the #bleedinggreen is simple: Do you trust Sanchez through the rest of the season and postseason? (@HarrisonNFL)

Interesting comment from former Cowboys head coach -- and two-time Super Bowl winner -- Jimmy Johnson, who mentioned that Andrew Luck reminds him of Troy Aikman. Of course, these guys couldn't be more different on the field, in that Luck is on pace to throw for about six billion yards and Aikman never sniffed a 4,000-yard season or 30 touchdowns. Also, Luck is extremely mobile, while the former Cowboy great was more Bledsoe-ian. That said, Johnson's thought revolved around the fact that, like Aikman, Luck's all about the team. And you do get the feeling that the Colts' third-year pro is the kind of leader who can win multiple Super Bowls.

Impressive performance from the defending champs, who left no doubt about the query we tossed out in last week's Power Rankings. Yes, the bully is back. Now the question is, can Seattle overtake Arizona in the NFC West race?

Injuries are partially to blame for the descent. Arizona has managed those beautifully this season, but I've felt all along that Andre Ellington is the one guy whose absence this team cannot mitigate. Of course, while the Cards certainly missed Ellington over the final three quarters Sunday, the way Drew Stanton played, Ottis Anderson and Charlie Trippi could have been back there and it wouldn't have mattered.

Ample drop for the Cowboys, who got whooped up and down the field by the rival Eagles. Dallas' secondary was absolutely atrocious, partially because the pass rush never got home. That said, safety J.J. Wilcox made up for it by laying a big hit on LeSean McCoy and talking smack afterward. Never mind that McCoy was 8 yards past the line of scrimmage and Philly was up three scores.

Happy for Lions fans, as I was worried their team would continue its trend of caving in November/December. In 2012, they lost eight in a row to close out the season. Last year, it was six of seven. Matthew Stafford began to put a fork in that narrative on Thanksgiving -- and just might have done the same for Marc Trestman's tenure with the Bears, as well.

Thank goodness for *12 men on the field*, right? The ugly victory -- which perhaps shouldn't have been a victory at all -- increased the Bengals' lead over every opponent in their division by a game. Here's the thing: They won. And whether you like Cincy or not, it's hard to argue with that 8-3-1 record right now.

Something about Sunday night was just off for the Chiefs. Little mistakes here and there. ... An errant football caroming off the wrong guy on the punt-return team. ... Donnie Avery's fourth-quarter fumble. ... Whatever was in the air, it wasn't the sweet smell of Kansas City barbecue. Call it the ominous winds of an anxiety-inducing stretch run.

Larger move up than we wanted to give the Dolphins, but the reality is that everyone directly in front of them in last week's rankings lost -- i.e., the Steelers, 49ers, Ravens. Speaking of the latter, Miami's home date with John Harbaugh's squad -- as well as a road game in New England -- should determine the Dolphins' postseason fate. Methinks the offensive line will be the unit to decide the upcoming game against Baltimore.

Philip Rivers had too many middling weeks to re-enter the MVP race, but tell me he didn't play like one on Sunday, completing 75.6 percent of his passes for 383 yards and three touchdowns while leading an offense that converted over 80 percent of its third downs. Wow. "Clutch" doesn't quite capture that performance by Rivers (and that massive comeback win by the Bolts).

Would have liked to have known what was going on in Colin Kaepernick's head on some of those dropbacks Thursday ...

 **First read:** 
 *He might be open. Here goes nothin'!!* 
 **Second read:** n/a 
 **Third read:** n/a 

Let's just say that performance wasn't Kap's greatest with a capital "G."

Big win for the Bills, who are riding the NFL's most underrated defense to a possible playoff spot. Now, it goes without saying that this head-to-head victory over the Browns looms large in the postseason push. The thinking here is that it will take 10 wins to get into the tournament on the AFC side. So, # BillsMafia, can Buffalo take three out of four vs. Denver, Green Bay, Oakland and New England -- with three of those four on the road? Are Andre Reed and Joe Cribbs still in football shape?

Win, lose or draw, two things are certain about the 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers:

A) You can't trust the defense as far as you can throw it (or throw on it).

B) Le'Veon Bell might be the best all-around running back in pro football. (Yes, DeMarco Murray included.)

The Ravens' hopes for the AFC North probably took a knockout blow Sunday. They are now a game and a half back while also being 0-2 versus the division-leading Bengals. Philip Rivers made a fat pit-beef sandwich out of that secondary. Still, Baltimore could have won if it weren't for the 14 penalties, including a most ill-timed PI. Next up: at Miami.

Go get it, Bill O'Brien. He has to be a Coach of the Year candidate. And let's just hand the Defensive Player of the Year award to J.J. Watt, who seemingly hits the opposing quarterback every other snap. Oh, and the guy now has five touchdowns to his name this season.

In non-Watt statistics news ... In the 95-year history of the NFL, just 26 quarterbacks have thrown six touchdown passes in one game. Ryan Fitzpatrick is now one of them. Yup.

Here's hoping that Johnny Manziel lights it up for Cleveland, as 2002 seems like way too long ago -- this club could use a playoff berth. I want to see that happen. That said, listening to the Browns radio broadcast Sunday, all I heard was "Johnny Football." Every other Cleveland player was called by their first name. And I think I heard the rare moniker of, uh, Bills, just once. Hey, I'm all for homerism, but holy cow, this approached Harry Caray levels. That's OK -- I guess it just means it will be that much more fun if this group is playing in January.

Thought the Rams would win the We Used To Play In L.A. Bowl, but *52-0?!* That was the third-highest point total since this franchise moved to St. Louis. In fact, the "Greatest Show on Turf" Rams only surpassed that number once. That came in 2000, when Kurt Warner and Trent Green exacted some revenge on Rodney Harrison and the Chargers by throwing for 465 yards. Yeah, well, Shaun Hill only threw for 183 Sunday -- which was more like Tony Banks, who threw for 188 in the Rams' 59-16 blasting of the Falcons in 1996.

Make fun of them all you want, but these Dirty Birds are in first place. Now, the Falcons have been dirty mostly because they've been pounded into the ground by every team that doesn't live in the NFC South. That wasn't the case Sunday, though, as Atlanta yielded just 35 rushing yards. (Of course, Andre Ellington's early injury helped matters.)

Incredible that the Saints can put up 35 points without a single reception by Jimmy Graham. At least, that's what we heard on all the postgame shows. Is that possible because Graham is, maybe, the third-most-important player on that offense? It's fantastic to see Mark Ingram continue to receive a heavy workload, as he will be key to winning a road playoff game (should this season come to that). Meanwhile, Kenny Stills and his 30-some-odd yards per catch continues to be football's version of Rob Deer or Jay Buhner. He's all long ball.

Wouldn't it be just like the Bears to give their fans hope with two straight wins only to look awful for the better part of Thanksgiving in Detroit? That second half was brutal -- just like Jay Cutler's play over the final three quarters. If indifference had a face ...

Minnesota's blowout win might have been the one game most people didn't seem to notice on Sunday. First off, Mike Zimmer deserves some credit for the job he's done in Year 1. Moreover, give the Vikes the Bill James Stat of the Week: After not returning a blocked punt for a touchdown in 28 years, Minnesota notched one in the first quarter. Then, the very next time the Panthers punted, the Vikings blocked it again -- and also returned it for a touchdown.

In case you were wondering, Issiac Holt blocked that punt back in '86. Holt was the only Viking to remain with the Cowboys as part of the infamous Herschel Walker deal and win a Super Bowl ring. All the other guys were let go immediately or dealt. Another long-time assistant -- like Zimmer -- made his head-coaching debut in Minnesota that year: Jerry Burns. Burns took the team to the postseason in 1987, '88 and '89.

What an awful season for this group. How Big Blue blew a 21-0 lead over Jacksonville is anyone's guess. Then we all got our hopes up when Eli Manning had 28 seconds to move the Giants into field goal range. Hooray, sack ... strip ... ball game. Ugh.

Sunday ended so poorly for the Bucs that I'm surprised I'm not getting called for too many words in a sentence. Looked like Bobby Rainey made the play of the day on that last drive, and yet the Curse of Jon Gruden remains.

Something tells me Panthers fans don't really want to read the Power Rankings today. Guessing Brad Nortman didn't want to show up for work today, either. What it must feel like to be the rare victim of the *double*, double thud.

They might not have won, but it's tough to put any blame on Colt McCoy, who played more than viably in leading the Redskins to their most points since Week 3, throwing for 392 yards and three touchdowns. Here's the question, though: Can RGIII play defensive back?

Congrats to the Jags, whose stay in the Power Rankings cellar was short-lived. Sure, they're still cruddy. But they really play hard for Gus Bradley, and showed a lot of poise coming back from a 21-zip deficit. Give that pass rush some serious credit, with two sack-strips and four sacks overall. Jacksonville is now 3-0 all time vs. the Giants -- two of those came against Tom Coughlin, and one came under Tom Coughlin.

Guess those people who said that Jake Locker had played his last down for the Titans were wrong. Not sure what importance that has, other than allowing an opportunity to say, "So there!"

(You try writing blurbs for a 2-10 team that looks the part.)

Watching the Jets' offense on Monday night, I must say I thought about popping in "Leatherheads" -- for many reasons, but you can start with the 1943-style football they were playing, essentially pushing the forward pass back to the days of stone knives and bear skins. I have more confidence in my Windows 95 than Rex Ryan has in his QB right now.

Up three spots ... annnnnnnd ... down three spots. Sorry, Raiders fans -- love the tradition, but hate the product right now. How this team followed up a division win against a solid team with that smoking dog turd Sunday -- after nine days of rest, by the way -- is anyone's guess.

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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