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NFL Power Rankings, Week 14: Seahawks climb; Patriots drop

The not-so-ugly reared their heads this weekend.

Week 14 Power Rankings are in, with a nod to the teams many of us thought were formidable in the preseason finally making their moves. The Seahawks dominated the Vikings. The Steelers trounced the Colts. And the Cardinals, well, they kept rolling with another *not to worry, we're still in control* win in St. Louis. The top 10 seen below could be precisely the same 10 at season's end, and that is not a bad thing.


SKOL (Uh, down a few spots.)

Yep, a couple of 2015's best -- i.e., the Patriots and Vikings -- did fall. The alarming facts included whom New England fell to, where the Pats and Vikes fell (both at home) and how badly Minnesota was taken down. Each team stayed in the top 10, however.

As for Nos. 11-32, see below. There is appreciable movement all throughout the ranks. As always, feel free to share your take on such matters. @HarrisonNFL is the place.

Let the dissension commence!

NOTE: The lineup below reflects changes from our Dec. 1 Power Rankings.

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Quite a scare in New Orleans on multiple fronts for the Panthers, who ultimately didn't succumb to the trap game -- or the divisional road game or the first loss of the season game, or whatever else league observers were calling the matchup with the Saints. Also scary were a couple of hits to the head suffered by today's MVP favorite, Cam Newton. With Carolina's usually formidable defense unable to stop New Orleans, the offense won the day.

Arizona rolls on, playing Cardinal football in St. Louis while the Rams played, well, Rams football. The only issue for Bruce Arians' club is maintaining the health of a running back who doesn't fumble. That man might be Kerwynn Williams. Just ask him. You're welcome.

Cincy sure looked darn good Sunday. (Of course, if you divide by the Browns factor, maybe they were simply solid.) Everyone got into the act: Jeremy Hill rushed for 98 yards, A.J. Green posted 102 yards in the first half and Marvin Jones contributed a nice touchdown late. Meanwhile, the defense accomplished something no NFL team has been able to do: contain Austin Davis.

Brock Lobster improves to 3-0 as a starter, and the Broncos rise. Of course, the star of Sunday's win in San Diego was a ferocious defense that simply won't let opposing passing games breathe right now. Consider that Philip Rivers dropped back to throw 39 times and had all of 179 net passing yards and three total points to show for it. OK, so the Bolts aren't exactly bolting for the offseason -- but Denver clearly didn't look past its divisional opponent, either.

Ugly loss for the Patriots, who, despite making it close in the end, are now taking some punches from fans and analysts around the country. Never mind that the offense is without all of its top playmakers, or the fact that Tom Brady can't get wideouts to even catch the football, much less fight for it. Brady loses some ground in the MVP race -- but there should be considerations made for the way New England receivers dropped three straight passes on the team's final possession. Catch the freaking ball.

Someone up in the booth in Minnesota must have been seriously jamming on the "O" button Sunday -- and not for the Vikings. Russell Wilson destroyed Minnesota's haphazard defense, whether by spinning, juking or lofting a dime of a throw to Doug Baldwin for a touchdown when the game had long been decided. Tell me, who wants to play these guys in January?

Was going to write some good rot about the dominance of Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant following the Sunday night win over Indy, but DeAngelo Williams impressed so much that we audibled. Those jump cuts -- and the explosion the 10-year vet displays over and over again -- provide a different dimension to this offense, and jussst enough balance for the Steelers to make you think they don't actually want to throw the ball all over the park like Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and John Taylor in Tecmo Super Bowl.

So much to sort out about Thursday's win: Eddie Lacy upsetting a million people (589,432 fantasy owners plus 410,568 cheeseheads) by getting benched ... the Packers looking lackluster for three quarters ... Davante Adams forgetting how to catch footballs (save for one important one in the end zone) ... a half-second facemask grabbbbbbbbehhhhhhmaaaayyybbennnnnnnoooooooobutttttmaybeeeeebaaaarellly ... the Lions rushing three ... Aaron Rodgers crow-hopping to launch the ball 68 yards ... Richard Rodgers tracking and ruining the night of every Lions fan. What a game.

Six wins in a row for the Chiefs, who looked like they might blow it after Cairo Santos botched an extra-point kick following a Jeremy Maclin TD that put K.C. up 26-20. Bear in mind that Santos participated in a biffed extra-point attempt on the Chiefs' previous score, leaving two very important points on the field. With that narrow lead in danger, former Raider Tyvon Branch made the play of the season for Kansas City, ensuring victory with a crucial pick-six. The Chiefs will see Oakland again in Week 17 -- and, given that their next three games will be against the Chargers, Ravens and Browns, they might be 10-5 and riding a nine-game winning streak by then.

You can't lose like *that* at home -- yes, even when you're without key components on defense. The outcome Sunday was never even in doubt. Tackling was awful. Secondary play was worse. On a day Minnesota could have shown the football world that it's a legit NFC contender capable of holding off the Packers in the NFC North, the team dropped a yule log on the turf. On another note, love outdoor Vikings football. #goodoledays

That win over the Texans was a huge one in terms of making something out of Rex Ryan's freshman season in Buffalo. At 6-6, the Bills lie right in the middle of the AFC wild-card morass, and with a head-to-head victory against one of their potential combatants for the fifth or sixth seed (Houston) in their back pocket. How about that Tyrod Taylor, setting a Bills record for consecutive passes without an interception? Among the Bills QBs of yore, Joe Ferguson was known to throw a few picks. So was Jack Kemp. But I'm surprised Taylor bested Jim Kelly in that category. #T-Mobile

Houston had a real chance to put a vise grip on the AFC South and stay more than relevant in the AFC wild-card race. Instead, the strength of the Texans failed them in Buffalo. Poor tackling and poor coverage on Sammy Watkins -- with a strong dose of Tyrod Taylor getting out of the pocket -- led to Houston's defeat Sunday. At least the Texans made up for it with 10 penalties. All eyes in the AFC South are on Week 15's Texans-at-Colts matchup.

Gut-check win for the pesky Jets, who simply won't go away in the AFC. A big reason: They have one of the top receiver duos in the NFL. On the set of NFL Now's "NFL GameDay Blitz" on Sunday, we could not think of a better pair this season than Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, who have been more consistent than the Steelers' duo of Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant (due to QB injuries and Bryant's suspension to start the season) and more productive than the Broncos' duo of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders (mostly because of quarterback issues). Marshall and Decker combined for 20 catches for 232 yards and an uber-important touchdown in the Battle for Snoopy.

Not sure what people expect from this football team, given that they replaced their offensive coordinator last month, are playing five offensive linemen out of position and relying on a quarterback who hasn't been a starter since 2011. The fact that Indy has stayed competitive in the AFC South is a testament to the character of the team and the play of Matt Hasselbeck. Maybe Chuck Pagano -- about whom everybody speculates nonstop -- deserves some credit, regardless of Sunday night's blowout loss -- maybe his seat should be simply lukewarm. Thoughts, Colts fans? (@HarrisonNFL)

Jameis Winston is beginning to make his push for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award, with his only competition at this point -- given how the production of Amari Cooper and Todd Gurley has fallen off -- being the quarterback selected immediately after him in the 2015 NFL Draft. Winston has picked up his game. The big kid didn't put up monster numbers Sunday. But all you need to do to understand his value is look at his 20-yard run on third-and-19.

How Jay Cutler had the game he did Sunday -- 58.1 percent completion rate, 202 yards, zero touchdowns, one pick, 64.2 passer rating -- after the brand of football he'd been playing for over a month is mind boggling. Call it Cutleresque: be solid enough to boost fans' hopes of landing a postseason berth, then let them down against a cruddy team. The running game provided Cutler with 170 yards, but against a secondary that is a Steve McMichael 100-yard sprint from being formidable, Cutler threw the ball like a defensive tackle.

The Giants are cold, cold, cold. So was the outcome of that fourth-and-two play call in the fourth quarter, with the Giants up 10 at the Jets' 4-yard line. That decision might have changed the game. That decision might have changed their season. Nah, only going 6-10 would keep this team from the NFC East title. That's how stellar that division is.

Guarantee you Derek Carr and Amari Cooper would like to have the third-down pass that resulted in former Raider Tyvon Branch's pick-six back. Carr could have put it a little more on it, and Cooper could've caught the ball. And could have, should have and would have, if we went backwards in time, brings the realization that the Raiders' dimming hopes to make the playoffs probably ensure Oakland will be watching the postseason unfold from home. Nothing has been decided yet, but there's a whole lot of traffic between Jack Del Rio's club and the sixth seed in the AFC.

Been a long time since all of social media was focused solely on one player the way Twitter was draped all over DeSean Jackson after Monday night's loss ... " dumbest play ever" ... "worst punt return ever" ... "cost the Redskins the game." Ironically, Washington's special teams did cost the team the game. Of all the things the Redskins' NFC East hopes couldn't take, it was Lucky Whitehead sprinting more than 40 yards on the kickoff return following Jackson's making amends.

So much to sort out about the loss Thursday night. Please refer to the Packers blurb. ... Obviously, it was a rough loss on so many fronts. Yet, Detroit fans knew the team was a Chet Lemon long shot to stay in the postseason picture anyway. The fact is that the team didn't give up on the season, and with the way the offense has been performing, that should provide hope going forward. Ziggy Ansah had better make All-Pro, too.

With the win over the Ravens, the Dolphins moved to 5-7 and are still a factor in the AFC wild-card race ... barely. Doesn't it feel like, at least the way the season has progressed so far, Miami is 5-11 as opposed to 5-7? The 'Fins face the Giants, Chargers, Colts and Patriots, with the game in San Diego being the sole road outing. It's possible this team wins seven games or more. If Dan Campbell pulls off that kind of record after taking over a 1-3 football team, doesn't he deserve a long look? Steer me here, Finsiders ... @HarrisonNFL.

It's not every day that Sam Bradford pumps his fist like Jonathan Moxon after a third-down completion, under duress, to pull off the upset against the Patriots in New England. In fact, it never happens, nor does anything close to it. What a win for the Eagles, with Bradford and the offense merely being an ancillary component to miscellaneous touchdowns from the defense and punt teams. Malcolm Jenkins, Darren Sproles and punt blocks accounting for scores? What did these guys think this was? 2014?

In maybe the top game of the NFL weekend, the Saints almost pulled off some NFC South magic. There was a time in this division when no one could repeat as champs. In fact, until the Panthers pulled off the feat last year, it had never occurred in over a decade of competition. Now Carolina has three-peated, but not without enduring a dogfight of a ball game in what was not the Big Easy. Every once in a while, records don't matter, especially when Drew Brees is out there dealin'.

As hot as the Bears have been, who saw the 49ers walking into Soldier Field on Sunday afternoon and marching out Sunday evening with a victory? Thank you, Robbie Gould. Who's caught more home-run balls over the last five years than Torrey Smith? It seems like the guy is the king of the 50-yard strike. The dude is averaging 23.0 yards per reception, 3 more yards than league leader Martavis Bryant ( Smith doesn't have enough catches to qualify, per NFL GSIS). If I could get the Orbital Strike in "Star Wars: Battlefront" to work like the Gabbert-to-Smith connection, I would have conquered Hoth long ago.

What's the worst 6-1 team in NFL history? You might be looking at it. After winning their first five games, the Falcons can seemingly do nothing right, including stopping a quarterback from picking up a first down on third-and-a-mile ... with his legs. Atlanta reminds us of the 1995 Rams, who started 4-0 only to finish 7-9. Or the 1986 Jets, who started 10-1 before flatlining at 10-6. I guess getting Devonta Freeman back didn't save the Falcons' season.

Stop if you've heard this before: The Cowboys only have to __ to win the NFC East. Unreal that this team, after losing Tony Romo, prematurely firing Brandon Weeden (in the minds of some), tossing Matt Cassel into the fire, getting Romo back for seven quarters, then turning back to Cassel, still has a chance to take the division. Dallas, at 4-8, has as much business being in a division race as Ryan Mallet does keynoting a team leadership conference.

There were plenty of positives to take away from the Ravens' loss in Miami. You want 'em? Fine, I'll pick six:

 **1)** Buck Allen's 170 yards and a touchdown. 
 **2)** The 
 Ravens' defense allowed one touchdown. 
 **3)** There is a running back who goes by "Buck." 
 **4)** Baltimore played its 99th one-score game this season. 
 Sam Koch had a helluva day punting the ball (46.4 net average. Work with me here). 
 Matt Schaub. 

Crazy win for the Titans on Sunday. Their defense couldn't stop the University of North Texas, much less Blake Bortles, yet that unit delivered the winning score with the fumble recovery on the errant shotgun snap. Then there was Marcus Mariota, who might not be enjoying the team success Jameis Winston is, but who certainly will challenge Winston for the rookie hardware on NFL Honors night. Loved this note from @Gil Brandt.

The 2015 season ain't any lighter for the Chargers, who have the L.A. question, the future of their head coach and the speculation of whether the roster needs to be blown up hanging over their heads. Philip Rivers isn't getting any younger. Ditto Malcom Floyd, Antonio Gates and Eric Weddle. The offensive line isn't getting any better. With the talent in Denver, the talent in Kansas City and the (young) talent in Oakland, the future is not bright for the Bolts.

It might be time to get fully behind the Blake Bortles Experience. While the Power Rankings have been sluggish to glorify the fantasy-productive quarterback due to ill-timed interceptions, Bortles' five-touchdown performance in a loss were darn impressive. Who has a better QB-WR relationship than Bortles and Allen Robinson right now? Roethlisberger to Brown? Any QB walking upright and DeAndre Hopkins? Call Gus Bradley "Gus Coryell" if this keeps up. #AirGus #Greatestshowingoldandteal #Allentown

Remember the days when Nick Foles threw for 445 yards and three touchdowns like Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson or Blake Bortles? Yeah, me neither. St. Louis' offense has almost as much difficulty sustaining drives as you did when you set up your Electric Pro Football, and you had to make the guys vibrate 80 yards down the field. The quarterback was required to catapult a foam ball, resulting in something that strangely resembled the Foles-to-Cook connection.

Mike Pettine is allegedly on thin ice in Cleveland -- and that's not just an overreaction to a 2-10 season and a home blowout loss. There is no such thing as an overreaction in pro football to such a dismal record. Still, there is plenty of blame to go around in Cleveland outside of Pettine. ... For instance, he is now reportedly going to start Johnny Manziel after instilling vast confidence in him.

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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