Power Rankings, Week 12: Chiefs, Patriots slip; Eagles rise

If the Week 12 Power Rankings are anywhere near as good as the Monday night game, we're cooking with grease ...

That was a fun one. Both the Patriots and Panthers played quality football to the bitter end, proving that neither will be a tough out come January.

Here are a couple of thoughts on that last sequence:

a) Pass interference should have been called on Luke Kuechly.
b) There's no way in hell Rob Gronkowski would have made a play on that ball. Ever.
c) The Ahmad Brooks hit on Drew Brees was far more significant and controversial.

Didn't most of the banks fail?

Yes, it does. But just one spot.

I do, too.

The Cowboys and Rams got their turn at a week off, and now we're almost through the bye weeks. Then we hit the home stretch. But we'll save the prognosticating for Thursday, when we run our weekly picks column.

Until then, let's look at how the league stacks up. Feel free to send your thoughts ... @Harrison_NFL is the place.

Let the dissension commence ...

(Note: Arrows reflect change in standings from last week's Power Rankings.)

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

The Broncos are the clear No. 1 team at this point, thanks in no small part to their offensive line. Talk about stepping up to the plate: Not only was Peyton Manning able to step up in the pocket Sunday night, it seemed like he barely had to move against the best pass rush in the league. The Chiefs came to Denver with 36 sacks and left Denver with 36 sacks.

Now this is the Seahawks team we've been waiting to see. The Seattle defense has imposed its will two weeks in a row, including on Sunday; the unit did a bang-up job stifling Adrian Peterson (65 yards) while scoring points of its own. The second spot isn't a bad one to be in.

Two concerns surfaced after the loss to the Broncos: 1) The offensive line is banged up; Eric Fisher and Jon Asamoah are not 100 percent. 2) The wide receivers have to make more plays. Neither Donnie Avery nor Dwayne Bowe did much. Kansas City can play ball control, but the offense still needs to complete some throws downfield.

Watching the end of the thriller in New Orleans, I kept thinking about what a difference Sean Payton makes. How many coaches stalk the sideline, waving their arms and asking the crowd to make noise like they're a college kid ... or Pete Carroll? Payton clearly has proven his value this season. Perhaps everyone who would have already given Andy Reid the Coach of the Year Award was a bit premature.

Wow. What a football game. Tremendous hitting, lead changes and the Panthers showing they can handle a quality team. Sure, Cam Newton was high on a few tosses, but how about that third-quarter touchdown drive? He was 7 of 7 for 55 yards -- plus 15 rushing yards.

I don't know if you knew this, but Tom Brady was a sixth-round draft pick. Now that we've got that covered ... the non-call on that pass to Gronk was all the talk after the game. Yet, Stevan Ridley's fumble in the red zone was every bit as important. The ground attack certainly gave the New England offense some pop, in the form of 107 rushing yards -- that's the second-highest rushing total allowed by Carolina all season.

If I'm a Patriots fan ( or Jerry Jones) I'm looking at this loss as a moral victory. Much went wrong, and yet, there the Pats were, nearly pulling out a road win versus a top team.

All right, Colts fans: Tell me you weren't panicked after the Titans' first two touchdown drives Thursday night. Say what you want about Andrew Luck, but the little known (at least nationally) Erik Walden made several big plays from his linebacker spot (of course, there was one he'd probably like to take back). In other news, when Donald Brown falls forward, he gains as many yards as Trent Richardson does per carry.

Yikes. The hardest loss to stomach in Week 11 happened to the team that resides in this spot. Feel so bad for Ahmad Brooks, who clearly didn't try to hit Drew Brees maliciously and was flagged on the closest of calls. Damn.

The Bengals came through in a must-win matchup with the Browns. The play of Andy Dalton remains at center stage, however, and he was no great shakes Sunday, despite throwing three touchdown passes. The pick-six he served on a platter to Joe Haden was ugly. Of course, they say winning cures everything, and Cincinnati is in the driver's seat in the AFC North. Still, it's hard to look past the quarterback.

Got hammered for leaving the Lions at the 10-hole last week. Maybe those people saw what transpired at Heinz Field?

Is there a more inconsistent team than Detroit? The Lions can score in a heartbeat through the air -- and yet they lead the league in drops. Jim Schwartz is the only coach to have taken them to the playoffs in the Y2K era -- and yet his call to fake a field-goal attempt changed the complexion (and momentum) of Sunday's loss. How about the fact that every year, we hear how great the front four is -- and yet that group was completely missing in the second half in Pittsburgh?

Rating Detroit is a challenge.

Clutch overtime victory at home for the Bears. Once again, Matt Forte's ability in both the ground and passing attack played a huge role. Deuce-deuce ran for 83 yards on 18 carries and caught five passes for 42 more -- 14 of which came on a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. Forte might have his flaws, and he might not be the best back in the league, but Chicago doesn't win without him.

That easily was the best game Carson Palmer has played in a long, long time. He averaged almost 10 yards per attempt and didn't turn over the ball en route to passing for 419 yards. The last time Palmer threw for that many yards with no turnovers? Never.

Though it got a wee bit scary there at the end for the Eagles, another quality showing from Nick Foles led to a divisional win. Don't look now, but a surprisingly fun (and important) matchup is coming up in Week 13, when the 6-4 Cardinals visit the Linc.

A difficult spot for Scott Tolzien to be in was made even more arduous by Jason Pierre-Paul's pick-six Sunday. Putting that disaster aside, we should note that the Packers were able to put up 394 yards without a running game. Remember that Green Bay next hosts a Vikings team that is similarly quarterback-deficient (though the Packers, of course, have an excuse), so if -- IF -- Aaron Rodgers can come back by Turkey Day, the NFC North still should be within reach. The Lions' loss in Pittsburgh was huge.

Geno got pizza roll'd again. There's good Geno and bad Geno, and we saw the latter in Buffalo. Smith had more combined interceptions, fumbles and sacks (nine) than he did completions (eight). Try reading that stat line again.

The bye was a wonderful opportunity for the Cowboys to figure out one of the intricacies of modern pro football: How to tackle the other guys. Dallas is allowing 439.8 yards per game -- 32nd out of 32 teams.

There's no getting around how impressive the win over the Chargers was -- though it was made so mostly because there was no getting around the Jonathan Martin situation for this Dolphins team. Don't look now, but Miami is in the thick of the playoff race.

Someone tell the Chargers' defensive backs that it's not against the rules to tackle. That was a nice, explosive game for Ryan Mathews, who has been hated on quite a bit by the national media and fans alike. The former first-round draft pick picked up 143 yards in 21 touches versus the Dolphins.

At this point, it will be tough for the Ravens to catch the Bengals. In other news, the 1-hour, 53-minute weather delay in Chicago left many with much time to think:

 **Ray Rice:** 
 *So this is what it feels like to be a lead running back.* 
 **Ravens fans:** 
 *We're watching a $100 million contract at work.* 
 **Joe Flacco:** 
 *Who's Deonte Thompson? Oh, one of my receivers. I knew that.* 

Here come the New York Giants. Jason Pierre-Paul is scoring touchdowns, they're sticking with the run game when appropriate, and Eli Manning is making sure to give up at least one interception per game, just to make it interesting.

The Giants are just 1½ games behind the Eagles in the NFC East. Give Tom Coughlin a ton of credit; the man doesn't believe in packing it in. Ever.

Rough outing in Cincinnati for the Browns. Jason Campbell coughed up three picks and couldn't even reach the 250-yard mark despite throwing it 56 times.

A lot of fans were upset with me for saying (tongue in cheek) that Cleveland was screwing up at tanking the season. Frankly, I'm on the record as thinking the Trent Richardson deal was smart for the franchise, but like it or not, that move and rumors of a Josh Gordon trade created the perception that the team was playing for next season. The thing is, even if the Browns do go on a run and finish with a decent record, neither of their two first-round draft picks will be high; there's just no getting around that. Other than building confidence, going 7-9 or 8-8 doesn't do much for this squad, because Cleveland is out of the AFC North race.

On Tennessee's first two drives Thursday night, Chris Johnson had eight carries for 70 yards and two touchdowns. The rest of the game? Nine carries for 16 yards. Someone besides Kendall Wright and Delanie Walker needs to get open. (Please don't say Kenny Britt.)

The bye week came at perhaps the worst possible time, at least emotionally, for a Rams team that had just put it all together in a blowout win over the Colts. Sometimes, as banged up as a roster can be by Week 11, players and coaches don't want a week off. This team played with a lot of confidence in attaining that victory in Indy, and it would have been nice to ride it out. As far as Week 12 goes, the Rams are hosting the Bears.

I met Matt McGloin in the spring, back when he merely wanted to be drafted; he thought the Patriots would be a nice fit because he knew their offensive system. A great kid, and he surely knows an opportunity when he sees one. McGloin played an efficient if not spectacular game in Houston, going 18 of 32 with three touchdowns. The key, as is so often the case, was avoiding turnovers. Heckuva win for Oakland.

Pittsburgh's defense has been middling this season, there's no question about that. Tell you what, though: After allowing 27 points to the Lions in the second quarter alone on Sunday, coordinator Dick LeBeau's unit shut Detroit out all the way home. Wild card? Still doubtful.

Give it up for those Buffalo Bills, who got after Geno Smith and provided the offense and EJ Manuel -- who played well -- with good field position all day. That they finished with a turnover differential of plus-four was a testament to the play of both the offense and defense.

We'd like to see Buffalo finish strong, with winnable games coming up versus the Falcons, Buccaneers, Jaguars and Dolphins.

Nice comeback for the Redskins, though it ultimately fell short. For much of the game in Philadelphia, Robert Griffin III a) was nowhere near as explosive as he was last season, and b) seemed to have trouble planting and driving the ball accurately. Maybe it's something in his mechanics, but there's no denying the up-and-down nature of his play.

Of course, nothing could have made up for the poor showing by the secondary. Eagles receivers were wide open in the first half -- much like the last time these two teams met.

Give these Buccaneers some credit for winning two in a row after starting 0-8. This last victory was impressive; we can talk about the Falcons' injuries all we want, but Steven Jackson was back, Tony Gonzalez was there, and yes, Roddy White played, too. And yet, Tampa Bay annihilated Atlanta. It helps when a dude named Bobby Rainey runs like James Wilder, circa 1984.

 ***Power Rankings fun fact:*** Wilder set an NFL record (since surpassed) with 407 carries in 1984. Rainey might never do that, but still; in this day and age, 30 attempts for 163 yards translates to a big-time workload. 

What's next? Still wondering -- especially after the blowout loss to the Seahawks, in which Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel posted passer ratings of 53 and 52.7, respectively -- about the role or purpose of Josh Freeman. Where does the team go from here?

Andre Johnson sure was hot Sunday -- at Matt Schaub, anyway. It should be noted that Johnson has 24 catches for 382 yards and five touchdowns over the Texans' past three games. Last season, he posted five 100-yard games (including a 200-yarder) over the last nine games. Who's been a better wideout than Johnson over the past 10 years? Calvin Johnson ... maybe? We'll let you debate that issue.

Meanwhile, we enjoyed this take on Schaub-Johnson I, via the Twitter account of the Houston Chronicle's John McClain ( @McClain_on_NFL):

"Schaub should b glad Johnson didn't go Cortland Finnegan on him."

For all the talk about the Falcons' hobbled offensive skill players, you can't blame their defensive woes on injuries. Atlanta has been downright awful on that side of the ball. Mike Glennon -- yes, Mike Glennon -- went 20 of 23 with two touchdowns and a 137.5 passer rating against the Falcons on Sunday.

All right, who started Danny Noble on their fantasy football team? Probably not even members of his own family. The undrafted Jaguars tight end out of Toledo caught a pass in the first quarter and took it 62 yards to the house -- his first career reception.

That's OK; the Jags' secondary made up for it by allowing Cardinals receivers to make 30 catches for 419 yards. Jacksonville has to be about the only team that could make Carson Palmer look like, well, Carson Palmer ... from about eight years ago.

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @Harrison_NFL.

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