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NFL Power Rankings, Week 14: New England Patriots take No. 1

Week 14 is upon us. And it's a week in which the chatter originally centered around the Giants situation. If not that, then the incredible lineup of games -- including Eagles at Rams, Vikings at Panthers and Seahawks at Jaguars -- this coming weekend.

Monday night washed away all of that. Ryan Shazier's frightening spine injury cast a pall over the entire evening -- a pall that was only exacerbated by the headhunting and taunting penalties that followed. The Kevin Everett injury in a Bills game a decade ago was scary enough. Ten years prior, I was locked into the Parcells Jets trying to get a road win against Barry Sanders' Lions when Detroit linebacker Reggie Brown crumpled to the turf.

Who needs to see any of that again? I had looked forward to tweeting during Monday night's game, with the Power Rankings nearly finished and Steelers-Bengals always producing intrigue. After Shazier went down, there remained zero need to provide a "take" the rest of the night. All of which adds an ominous undercurrent to the discussion around Rob Gronkowski's cheap hit that put Tre'Davious White in the concussion protocol. The player-safety rules are there to protect players from opponents -- and sometimes protect players from themselves. But the guys on the field must be as invested in safety as those off of it.

All that said, I thought the Steelers' archrival summed up the collective thoughts of the football community on Monday night quite well:

Well, there's no great way to transition from that into typical Power Rankings banter. Let's just pass out some well-deserved plaudits to one of the true NFL stalwarts of the Y2K era.

Agreed. Frank Gore has been a true professional, a blue-collar player in an era defined by style as much as substance. Now he's one of the five most prolific rushers *in NFL history*.

Thanks to a new quarterback, Gore's old squad gets a boost in the rankings below. As do the Packers, who are also trotting out a fresh face under center (though not for much longer, it appears). The Giants? Well, they stay in the same lowly slot, beleaguered by QB drama and early house cleaning. Your take on any team is welcome: @HarrisonNFL is the place.

Let the dissension commence!

PROGRAMMING NOTE: For more in-depth analysis on the updated league pecking order, tune in to NFL Network every Tuesday night at 6 p.m. ET for the "NFL Power Rankings" show. Want to add YOUR voice? Provide your thoughts at the bottom of this page or tweet @HarrisonNFL, and your comments could be featured on air.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The lineup below reflects changes from our Week 13 Power Rankings.

Owning an eight-game winning streak, with an average margin of victory of 15.5, the Patriots are the new No. 1. Sunday brought another ho-hum win for Bill Belichick's crew, which has seen its struggles in Buffalo in the past (even in wins). Not this time. Not even close. Of course, social media only wanted to show you Tom Brady going off on Josh McDaniels -- after the latter shook his head at his quarterback for missing an open receiver on an incompletion in Bills territory. Well, either Brady was saying, "Speak louder -- I have five rings ringing in my ears" * ... or maybe he yelled, *I'm not Kyle Orton. Get off me! Or maybe it was nothing.

The first dip in these here rankings since Week 3 for the Eagles -- and the first time not in the top spot since Week 8. The Eagles have been perched atop the league's hierarchy because of their balance on offense and defense, as well as the MVP play of the quarterback. All three factions were marginalized by the Seahawks on Sunday night. Russell Wilson reintroduced himself into the MVP race. Seattle's offense paid off drives in the red zone. Most noticeably, though, the Seahawks changed things up defensively more than the Eagles, who got pressure with their front four but didn't dedicate extra numbers to contain Wilson. Interestingly enough, it was this very franchise that made spying a thing. From 1988 through 1990, Randall Cunningham terrorized so many defenses with his legs that the DCs were forced to react. Next up for these Eagles: at Rams. Wow.

For all those who complained last week that the Vikings were too high at No. 3 (many were Steelers fans), hope you saw that quality road win in Atlanta. The Vikings' defense didn't produce a gaggle of sacks and interceptions -- rather, the unit put forth solid team defense while yielding just nine points (on three field goals). Also of note: Pat Shurmur and Case Keenum's use of the running backs, flipping the offensive script Sunday on the defending NFC champs, who did that to so many opponents last season.

The Steelers hold their place in the cleanup spot after a gutty, gritty and -- unfortunately -- violent win in Cincinnati. Ryan Shazier's health is of primary concern to the whole organization, from both the human and football standpoints. He's become the heartbeat of Pittsburgh's defense, much like Troy Polamalu did in the mid-2000s. My colleague, Aditi Kinkhabwala, put it best in this tweet last night. And right before publishing, Ian Rapoport reported that the linebacker "has some movement in his lower extremities" -- which is encouraging news -- "but the next 24-48 hours are key for increased improvement." Pittsburgh has another physical matchup with the rival Ravens this Sunday, although those teams have always gone at each other hard and with respect. The rivalry with the Bengals is another story. Glad JuJu Smith-Schuster apologized.

Not sure anyone can stop the Rams' offense right now. Even on a day when that side of the ball didn't play particularly well, Los Angeles still manufactured 300-plus yards despite tapping the brakes in the fourth quarter. More importantly, the offense might not have to provide much more than that, given the way Wade Phillips' D is competing. L.A.'s allowing a hair over 18 points per game, and even produced a touchdown of its own against Arizona. Todd Gurley won't receive many (any?) MVP votes, but he compiled another 158 scrimmage yards. He isn't being overused in the run game, which means he should be fresh for the playoffs. That equates to clock-eating drives, which equates to saving the legs of Robert Quinn, Aaron Donald and everyone else on Phillips' unit.

This Thursday in Atlanta looms large in the picture of the Saints' season, one that could end up being the franchise's second Super Bowl campaign. In order to get to Minnesota in February, winning the NFC South and grabbing one of the first-round byes is key. With the Eagles traveling west to face the stubborn Rams, and the Vikings set to visit the Panthers, New Orleans could have an opening. If the Saints can beat Atlanta on this short week, they'll return home with momentum to face the Jets and Falcons before closing out the season in Tampa Bay. Basically, 13-3 is doable for Sean Payton's group. #whodat

So, I take it the Jags kinda like how they match up against the Colts ... That's two games between these teams now, with 57 points for the good guys, 10 points for the bad guys. (Well, from Duval County's perspective.) Jacksonville's defense once again made Indy look lost, recording two picks and four sacks while holding the Colts to a 33 percent conversion rate on third down. Blake Bortles enjoyed his finest day of the season, completing 26 of his 35 throws for 309 yards and two scores, while adding a 20-yard scamper. That's encouraging, right? Yes? Kind of?

The Seahawks climb back into the top 10 with authority, besting last week's top-ranked team despite missing some of their best players. Two central factors in Sunday night's win: The MVP performance from Russell Wilson (like that's new) and the motor(s) of the pass rush. What a clutch play by Sheldon Richardson to force that Carson Wentz fumble at the goal line. Remember Kam Chancellor peeling off his man to level Megatron on a Monday night and save the day? Seattle always seems to come up with those kinds of impact plays when they are needed most, especially with the whole football world watching. Chancellor's breakup of Tom Brady's endgame lob to Gronk one year ago comes to mind, as does Bobby Wagner turning the tide against the Colts earlier this season. Then, of course, Sherman vs. Crabtree -- that match play decided the NFC championship. It's no fluke.

Sunday in New Orleans was a litmus test for the viability of these 2017 Panthers. As much as teams must close out games by grinding them out on the ground and stringing together first downs, sometimes playoff squads must stay stride for stride in track meets. Carolina isn't built for that, especially with Kelvin Benjamin gone, Greg Olsen not fully healthy and guys like Ted Ginn Jr. no longer in the mix. On an afternoon when the defense was getting left in the dust by the Saints' backs, it was difficult for Cam Newton to keep up. Sure would help if Devin Funchess would run fourth-down routes to the sticks, though. Still, if the defense is right and Olsen's foot is agreeable, the Panthers will be a tough out in the postseason.

The Chargers won yet again, moving into a first-place tie with the Raiders and Chiefs. Los Angeles beat Oakland ... who knocked off Kansas City ... who took down the Bolts early in the season. Seems like there will only be room for one AFC West team in the postseason. Interesting how much has been made about the Bolts' 0-4 start. And with that, of course, comes the comparison to the 1992 Chargers -- the only team to make the playoffs after that kind of start. Bobby Ross' team had a gritty quarterback in Stan Humphries, a solid rotation of RBs in Marion Butts, Rod Bernstine and Ronnie Harmon, and two bona fide stars on defense in Junior Seau and Leslie O'Neal. Sound vaguely familiar?

Not much of a drop for the Falcons, despite the home loss. That was a Super Bowl contender that upended Atlanta on Sunday -- and the Falcons had a chance in the fourth quarter, but they couldn't finish. The pass rush continues to flash for Dan Quinn's team, so often getting close to Case Keenum ... but just a biiiiiiiiiiit too late. Going to the other side of the ball: For all the Matt Ryan-to- Julio Jones gushing, this connection's had many a middling game this season, with a couple of huge performances getting all the headlines. Jones has put up just three 100-yard performances -- and only scored in two games. Sunday? Two catches for 24 yards (despite being open several times). No scores from No. 11, either.

Much complaining from Titans fans that their squad isn't higher. How could it be? Tennessee continues to eke past bottom-of-the-barrel teams. This is coming from no Titans hater, either -- your hack writer predicted they'd win the AFC South this season. Yet, the Texans were in position to win the game at the end -- despite missing six of their main players. The Titans' passing game is still mostly absentee, regardless of whether Tennessee fashions itself as a smashmouth team. Marcus Mariota averaged under 7 yards per attempt, which is way too low when play-action should produce plenty of intermediate completions. That said, Dick LeBeau's defense closed the door when it mattered.

Slow move up for the Ravens, who are riding a stout defense and a stank offense to a possible playoff berth. Well, hold up. Joe Flacco and the Baltimore "attack" did produce one of their B-sides of the season. (Dean Pees' defense is always the headliner.) The passing game was in tune, for a change, with 269 yards -- a healthy chunk of which came on vertical throws. More importantly, no scratches allowed from the offensive line. Flacco was not sacked. Couple overlays from the Ravens' run game, which managed to eclipse the 100-yard barrier, and this team is in the thick of the wild-card chase. Now I am trying to think of bands from Baltimore.

Much-needed win for the Cowboys, who are hanging around in the wild-card race. The key to Thursday's win: dominance in the trenches. The offensive front played its finest game of the season, getting push on seemingly every running play. The defensive line took continuous advantage of a Redskins group that was playing a couple cans short of a six-pack. That said, the guy who impressed the most was Alfred Morris. Oft-disrespected, Morris countered the peanut gallery by running hard and with patience. Planters ... The official peanut of the Dallas Cowwwboyzth, Merica's team!!! Sorry, grew up listening to Jerry in Dallas.

Nice to see a happy Derek Carr raise both hands in victory, a la Bay Area legend Joe Montana. Carr was not only overjoyed with winning sans his top talents on the perimeter (apologies to Seth Roberts, Cordarrelle Patterson and the immortal Johnny Holton), but he made a beeline for Eli Manning to send along nice words. (You know, like, presumably, "Hey, man. Good game. You're better than Geno Smith ... Good game, man, good game.") Boy, Oakland is back in the thick of the AFC West fight, but every upcoming team on the schedule is in the playoff race, too. The autumn wind, purportedly, is a Raider. Does autumn extend into December?

Hard to win in the NFL when your offensive line is playing with some guys who should be in a cold tub and other guys who might be repairing cold tubs for a living in a couple of years. It looked like the NFC East matchup in Dallas could go to the visitors when the Cowboys couldn't move the football early. Jamison Crowder to the rescue! He's had a rough season. The rest of the season will be all about the further evaluation of Kirk Cousins.

The most significant win on the Week 13 slate was unequivocally the Packers pirating a victory from the Bucs. With the Browns up next, Green Bay could be 7-6 with Aaron Rodgers coming back. (Oh, if you haven't heard, Rodgers broke his collarbone and hasn't been playing. You might have missed that story the first 754 times on sports radio.) No team wants to face Rodgers at his zenith in the postseason, at home, away or on Vulcan. On another note, I remember the first time I saw the Packers play the Bucs. My brothers and I were watching the Cowboys game, when Brent Musburger continually broke in with another Green Bay touchdown. The score was 49-7 at halftime. That's no misprint. It was my first deep dive into Tampa ineptitude, pre-DeBerg/Testaverde/Dilfer eras. Harlan Huckleby scored, I think. Any of you older Cheeseheads with Lynn Dickey posters remember that game?

Sunday's loss in Baltimore probably means the season is over, at least in terms of extending it into January. Look for both NFC wild-card teams to finish with double-digit wins. Maybe, maybe, a sixth seed can sneak in at 9-7, but Detroit's most likely postseason scenario is to win out -- at Bucs, vs. Bears, at Bengals, vs. Packers (quite possibly with Aaron Rodgers). Thought if the Lions could split versus the purple teams over the past two weeks, they could pull it off. But the defense wasn't up to snuff versus the Vikings or the Ravens. Hopefully, Matthew Stafford is healthy enough this week.

Last week in this space, I surmised that Todd Bowles hadn't received enough (or any) credit for keeping New York in contention in every game, after so many laid waste to his stewardship in the late goings last season. Well, Sunday brought a true victory -- not one of the moral variety --- over a desperate Chiefs team with everything to play for. Josh McCown continues to implement the game plan from Bowles' offensive staff and make enough plays to keep this team airborne down the stretch. McCown outdid himself versus a K.C. secondary ripe for the picking, throwing no picks on his way to 331 yards and a touchdown through the air. He added two more scores on the ground, including the go-ahead TD. Now, because these are the Jets, we must point out the delay-of-game penalty McCown took on first-and-goal from the 5 late in the fourth quarter. That was so Jets-y that it was darn-near Lions-y.

Not what we expected from the Bills, whether we're talking about Tyrod Taylor's ill-advised red-zone interception or the quarterback leaving the game early with a knee injury. Unfortunately, the 191 rushing yards allowed to the Patriots are in line with the anticipated outcome of a Buffalo game, at least lately. The run defense has absolutely sucked since Marcell Dareus was traded away at the end of October. After the controversial defensive tackle broke up with Sean McDermott -- or vice versa -- the Bills have allowed 156.3 rushing yards per game. It feels like when a guy gets all full of himself after breaking up with a girl, then sees her with a better-looking dude in an Audi, smiling like a sliced watermelon.

So, to be totally fair ... the secondary is terrible, with the Chiefs' hopes in the AFC West following suit. After a one-week reprieve against the Bills (who own no air game other than pitchbacks to LeSean McCoy), the league's 28th-ranked pass defense allowed Josh McCown and the Jets to go off. The perennial backup looked like Len Dawson circa '69, going 26 of 36 for 331 yards and a touchdown. When the Chiefs didn't get burned, they held. The penalty for hitting the snapper on the field goal -- after which Kansas City held the Jets on a third-down-and-goal-to-go situation and, of course, on the two-point conversion attempt that ended with Marcus Peters' bizarre self-ejection -- was as horrible a brain fart as you'll ever see. Andy Reid wanted to Michael Myers somebody after watching that endgame stanza. Kansas City's 20-spot drop in the Power Rankings this season is analogous to the drop from "Halloween" to that awful one with Josh Hartnett 20 years later.

The Bengals not only dropped another hard-fought ( too much so) battle to the Steelers, but might've also lost any hope of snatching a wild-card spot. On a night Andy Dalton when was playing well, the offensive line was holding up and the defense was stifling Ben Roethlisberger, Cincy imploded in the fourth quarter. Another lost Bengals campaign was lost in the shadow of nasty hits and personal fouls, which have become the calling card of this division rivalry. It's no good for Marvin Lewis' team. (Same goes for Mike Tomlin's bunch. And the league.)

If there was any doubt as to what the logline of this Cardinals season should be, Sunday's loss to the Rams erased it: No DJ, no Carson, no playoffs. OK, so Carson Palmer wasn't enjoying a stellar campaign before he went on injured reserve in October -- but the veteran has been known to be streaky, able to rebound after being counted out. Losing David Johnson -- the top back in football last year -- was obviously tough. At 5-7, it would take a miracle of Josh McCown-to-Nate Poole proportions (remember this?) for Arizona to sneak into the playoffs at 9-7, as this would involve the Cardinals running the table AND every team not named the Cardinals losing. Oh, and Rod Tidwell would have to line up opposite Larry Fitzgerald.

The Dolphins' roller-coaster season has four more weeks, so it's not too late to grab a speed pass at Will Call so you don't have to endure those long lines. Bring your plastic cup with squiggly straws for free Mr. Pibb refills. Hey, 35-9 over the Broncos beats the heck out of the bumper cars, too (those are lame even if when you're, like, 10). Kenyan Drake is more burner than bumper; his explosiveness was on full display Sunday. A piece for Adam Gase to build upon in 2018, Drake glided his way to 120 rushing yards on only 23 carries. Highlight of the day was Xavien Howard breaking on a late Trevor Siemian throw. House.

Jameis Winston's return after missing three weeks with a shoulder injury came with a little assembly required. Winston's line on the day was solid (21 of 32, 270 yards, two touchdowns), although his offensive line was not. Winston was sacked seven times, rattling him enough for him to lose a ball to Packers defensive linemen Dean Lowry for six going the other way. Winston was also rattled enough to be noticeably limping by the fourth quarter. Sunday's loss at Lambeau was a case of lost opportunities. The fumble return came with Tampa driving at the Packers' 30. On another drive, a snap that Winston clearly wasn't ready for caused the Bucs to settle for three points instead of getting six, a relevant moment in a game that went to overtime. Once in the extra quarter, Tampa never had an opportunity to get the football.

Not a wonderful day for John Fox and Co., who lost a challenge, lost on third downs, lost the quarterback battle, lost the total yardage battle (by a huge margin) and, ultimately, lost a winnable game. The Bears gained 147 yards of offense against San Francisco, a paltry total for even an offensively challenged team, which Chicago certainly is. Much like Week 12 in Philadelphia, the defense was asked to be on the field far too much. Had Chicago been playing Carson Wentz and the Eagles again instead of a quarterback making his first start for the Niners, the outcome would have been of the blowout variety once more. The worst battle to lose: Watching your former kicker, who didn't want to leave Chicago, win the game for the other sideline.

The hole isn't getting any shallower for the Colts, who lost for the sixth time in seven games. Indy was barely competitive in either of this season's contests against the Jags. Perhaps the only bright spot to come out of Sunday's three-score loss was the ascension of Frank Gore up the NFL record books. An ultimate plugger and workmanlike running back, Gore is also quite the compiler. He passed Jerome Bettis and LaDainian Tomlinson on the all-time rushing list Sunday, and he now sits at fifth among the league's legends. With just 632 rushing yards thus far this season (52.7 per game), Gore probably won't make it to 1,000 yards. But if Gore does go on a mini-run, he could pass that barrier for the 10th time. Count Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith and Curtis Martin as the only players to have ever pulled that off.

The Texans' loss in Tennessee made ... wait ... sorry, gotta start over -- Houston just got called for a false start. Anyway, so the Texans were not able to ... uh ... hang on ... False start, Houston ... sorry. Ahem, OK, so the late loss ... what the @#$%#!@$% ... False start, offense, No. 79. I give up. But Tom Savage didn't. He somehow converted fourth-and-a-mile to keep the Texans alive late, then made up for it by throwing an interception on the next play. Man, what an odd game. Houston is going to have to sign guys from P.J.'s Sports Bar and K1 Speed GoCarts if these injuries keep happening. Maybe Jumping Zaxx. They might have a few red-zone targets working there.

What a weekend for 49ers fans, who got to celebrate a rare road win in the first start of the Jimmy Garoppolo era. In addition to being San Francisco's first road win since 2016 (when the team beat the Rams in Los Angeles), it was the team's first W outside the state of California in 24 months. On Dec. 6, 2015, Blaine Gabbert delivered in overtime in, coincidentally, Chicago. Couple of notes: First, Garoppolo was efficient, if not prolific. Second, Niners- Bears is a wonderful uni matchup. It brought back memories of the most impressive win of the Bill Walsh era, the 1988 NFC Championship Game, when the 49ers (in their road whites) proved they were no finesse team in slamming Da Bears, 28-3.

The Broncos have suffered through a few miserable seasons over the last 30 years, although not as many as you would think. The worst campaign I can remember was in 1990, when the Broncos stumbled to a 5-11 finish after making three of the previous four Super Bowls. There was also the Josh McDaniels/Eric Studesville debacle of 2010, when Denver finished 4-12. And Dan Reeves went 2-7 in the strike-shortened 1982 season. Denver acquired John Elway the following year. So here's a glimmer of hope as 3-9 Denver limps down the stretch: All three of those teams made the playoffs the next year. Seriously. No really, look it up.

Whatever the reasoning -- be it a season chock-full of disappointment, Ben McAdoo's lack of presence, or a combination of both -- the Giants decided to fire McAdoo and GM Jerry Reese after benching Eli Manning. Co-owner John Mara said the moves were about the 2-10 record, which means the issues must have accumulated before Manning took a seat. So why wait until Monday? Perhaps the Giants wanted to see if Geno Smith would pull off a win in Oakland or provide a spark, though it seems like that was an unlikely outcome, given the way Smith flamed out with the Jets both in play and attitude. The latter was never an issue for Manning. Did anyone involved think the rest of the roster would respond well to Manning's benching? That is seriously doubtful, especially if former Giants players are to be believed, starting with a colleague of mine. Well, you knew it wasn't going well for the former head coach when the opponent's head coach was thankful for the quarterback switch. Now we'll see how the players respond to the coaching switch.

Encouraging signs from the winless Browns again, especially from that imposing wide receiver who still looks like the best athlete on the field after a three-year absence, and who made a more-than-so-so return (four catches, 85 yards). DeShone Kizer cannot pat the ball forever looking for Josh Gordon, however. Cleveland was down by 9 against the Chargers with under two minutes left and the offense driving -- and Kizer held the ball entirely too long, rolled to his left, then backed into a sack by Darius Philon. Gordon was 40 yards down the field, so by the time he ran back to line up, the Browns were out 30 seconds. Next play: interception. Ballgame.

*Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL. And be sure to tune in to the "NFL Power Rankings" show on NFL Network every Tuesday night at 6 p.m. ET. *

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