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NFL Power Rankings 2015: Week 12

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It's the best time of the year: the NFL playoff race. While having a lot of teams in the 4-6 to 5-5 range may not make a lot of individual fan bases happy, it sure as heck make these next few weeks very exciting.

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Some teams that start off hot have cooled, some teams that started off poorly have started to turn things around... so where do the chips lie when the dust settles? (Is that a saying?)

32. Tennessee Titans (2-8, Previously #32) - I'm not sure how this team managed to win two games, so far.  The Titans lose yet another game, as the offense fails to put up more than 14 points for the SEVENTH time this season.  Yep, the same offense that put up 34 on the Saints.

31. Cleveland Browns (2-8, Previously #31) - The Browns went into their bye with 5 straight losses and 4 straight by double digits.  The Browns will be using the rest of the season gauging the potential of Johnny Manziel and whether or not he's the answer at QB for the next season and the future just named Josh McCown as their week 12 starter, because they're the Browns.  Their first game on the other side of the bye comes against the Baltimore Ravens in a game with big draft day implications.

30. Baltimore Ravens (3-7, Previously #29) - The Ravens picked up what would be a decent win over the St. Louis Rams this week, but they lost QB Joe Flacco and RB Justin Forsett for the rest of the year.  With the injury to Flacco and Forsett, any hope of redeeming their season went out the window.

29. San Diego Chargers (2-8, Previously #28) - Following a 30 point loss to the Chiefs, the Chargers' season is effectively over.  With only two wins (both against sub par opponents), the Chargers need to start evaluating for next year.  This is a team with some nice pieces (especially at QB), and could be in line for a big turn around, with the right off season.  Or is it time to try to trade Phil Rivers and start from scratch?

28. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-6, Previously #27) - It wasn't a pretty game, but a win is a win.  At 4-6, the Jaguars are just 2 games away from being the #1 overall pick, but also just 1 game back from first in the division.  They have two very winnable games against the Chargers and Titans, before a potential 1st place showdown against the Colts in week 14.

27. San Francisco 49ers (3-7, Previously #24) - The 49ers entered the bye with a win, and followed it up with a loss.  It's been a mostly down season for the 49ers, in their first since parting ways with Harbaugh in this past off season.  With Kaepernick getting benched and Blaine Gabbert being Blaine Gabbert, this team has a lot of questions to answer in the upcoming off season.

26. Detroit Lions (3-7, Previously #30) - It may be a case of too little, too late, but Lions are on a two game winning streak following their bye, with both wins coming against solid opponents.  While a run this season seems unlikely, the Lions can still try to turn this thing around a little bit and finish the year off feeling better about their chances next season.

25. New Orleans Saints (4-6, Previously #23) - Rob Ryan out, Dennis Allen in.  Will that be enough to turnaround the #32 ranked defense?  The offense is ready to do their end to try to make an improbable post season run, but they'll need some help and fast.

24. Philadelphia Eagles (4-6, Previously #21) - Mark Sanchez got his first chance to start this season... if nothing else, he gave Sam Bradford a little job security for the rest of the season.  The Eagles were absolutely outplayed by the Buccaneers, but still sit just 1 game out of 1st in a very inconsistent NFC East.

23. Miami Dolphins (4-6, Previously #20) - The Dolphins could have really used a win, luckily for them, their opponent was the loser of seven straight games, the Dallas Cowboys.  Unluckily, Tony Romo was back for this game.  After losing 3 of their last 4 games, the Dolphins need to play near perfect from here on out, to claim the Wild Card spot that many had them favored to score in the preseason.

22. St. Louis Rams (4-6, Previously #15) - The Rams won two straight following their early bye, and it looked like they were on their way to becoming legit Wild Card contenders.  Since then, the Rams have lost 3 consecutive games, with their latest loss coming to the then 2-7 Ravens, in a game in which both the Ravens' starting QB Flacco and starting RB Forsett were lost for the season.  St. Louis now finds themselves in essentially a must win out scenario, with back to back tough games (@Cin, vs Ari) in the next two weeks.

21. Washington Potatoes (4-6, Previously #17) - Not only did they lose to the Carolina Panthers, the Taters were exposed as a team that can't really hang with the true contenders in the NFL.  Still in contention for both a wild card and a division title, Washington has two huge divisional games coming up.  If they lose to the Giants and the Cowboys in the upcoming weeks, their season is over.  While Kirk Cousins has done enough to keep the team competitive, he'll be playing for his future in the next 6 games.

20. Atlanta Falcons (6-4, Previously #16) - Starting the season at 5-0, the Falcons were feeling great in their first season under new HC Dan Quinn.  Since then, the Falcons have lost 4 of 5, including each of their last three games.  Still controlling their own destiny for a Wild Card spot, the Falcons need to right the ship quickly, with their next three games coming against Wild Card leading Minnesota, Division (and Conference) leading Carolina, and the team currently right behind them for the second Wild Card spot in the Buccaneers.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5, Previously #26) - After winning back to back games, the Buccaneers suddenly find themselves in the middle of a tight NFC Wild Card battle.  The Buccaneers offense is getting healthy, and could be adding yet another piece in Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the upcoming week.  With Atlanta currently on a steep downward trend, the Buccaneers have positioned themselves nicely for a late postseason push.

18. Houston Texans (5-5, Previously #22) - Three straight wins (two against quality opponents) and the Texans find themselves tied for first in their division, despite a 2-5 record to start the season.  Hopefully they hit a speed bump this week when they take on the New Orleans Saints and their revamped (sure to be top 5) defense.

17. Chicago Bears (4-6, Previously #19) - They started the year looking like one of the worst teams in the league through three games, since then they have gone 4-3 with all their losses coming by 3 points or less.  This Thursday's game against the Green Bay Packers will go along way in deciding whether or not this team can make a run to make the playoffs.

16. Indianapolis Colts (5-5, Previously #18) - Back to back solid wins have the Colts feeling better about the back half of the season.  Their schedule (Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, Houston, Miami, and Tennessee) surely isn't dampening that spirit.

15. Oakland Raiders (4-6, Previously #12) - Three straight losses has the Oakland Raiders desperate for a win.  They'll need to get it done this week in Tennessee, to get a little momentum before a big two game divisional tilt against KC and Denver.

14. New York Jets (5-5, Previously #13) - None of their wins are that great, none of their losses are indefensible... The Jets are just a solid, middle of the road team this year... Fortunately for them, "middle of the road" just might be good enough for a Wild Card spot in this seemingly down NFL season.

13. Seattle Seahawks (5-5, Previously #14) - The defending Super Bowl champs beat the 49ers to stay firmly planted in the playoff conversation.  Marshawn Lynch missing action may have been a blessing in disguise, as undrafted rookie Thomas Rawls exploded with a 200 yard performance, making life after Beast Mode a little less scary for Seahawks fans.

12. Dallas Cowboys (3-7, Previously #25) - Is this a bit of an over reaction?  Possibly... but the Cowboys are 3-0 this season with Tony Romo under center, and the rest of the league hasn't been too hot, so a big win in Romo's return has the Cowboys shooting up the rankings.  With the top two Wild card teams at 7-3 and 6-4, respectively, the Cowboys have their sights set on the division leading New York Giants.

11. Buffalo Bills (5-5, Previously #11) - A close road loss in New England is about as good of a loss as you can take.  With the Pats lapping everyone else in the AFC East, it's Wild Card or bust for the Bills in their first year under Rex Ryan.

10. New York Giants (5-5, Previously #9) - It was mostly good news for the Giants during their bye, as losses by Washington and Philadelphia have them sitting a game up in the NFC East.  The bad news, Tony Romo is back and the Dallas Cowboys (just two games back) are now 3-0 on the season with him as their starter.

9. Kansas City Chiefs (5-5, Previously #10) - After losing Jamal Charles for the year in week 5 and boasting a 1-5 record through 6 weeks, the Chiefs season looked all but over.  Since then, they have won 4 in a row and are now tied for the second AFC Wild Card spot.  Their next two games are crucial, with games against fellow Wild Card hopefuls in the Buffalo Bills and Oakland Raiders.

8. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4, Previously #7) - The Steelers went into and came out of their bye week in control of the top Wild Card spot in the AFC.  They will find themselves tested with games against Seattle, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and Denver in the next four weeks, before finishing the year with games at Baltimore and Cleveland.

7. Minnesota Vikings (7-3, Previously #4) - With the exception of week 1, two of the Vikings losses have come against Super Bowl contenders.  Currently tied with Green Bay for first in the NFC North/Top Wild Card spot, the Vikings are sitting pretty through 10 games, but they have a tough schedule to close things out, with only the Bears (4-6) as an opponent currently sitting below .500 on the season.

6. Green Bay Packers (7-3, Previously #8) - Not only were they able to stop their losing streak, but they were able to do so by beating the team in front of them to tie up the division lead.  The Packers went to Minnesota and let the NFL know that they aren't a team in collapse.  Up next they have another tough divisional test, playing host to a tougher than expected Chicago Bears team.

5. Denver Broncos (8-2, Previously #6) -  While the Broncos offense didn't set the world on fire this week, they still looked a lot more comfortable and in control with Brock Osweiler under center, picking up the win against the Bears.  Osweiler will have at least one more week to prove it wasn't a fluke, as Peyton Manning continues to try to get closer to 100% health.  Another solid performance could have Elway and Kubiak making a tough change.

4. Cincinnati Bengals (8-2, Previously #2) -  A close loss on the road to the Arizona Cardinals isn't any cause for concern.  Yea, they've lost two straight, but neither are glaring. Next up they host the Rams in an attempt to stop this two game skid from turning into a full blown losing streak.

3. Arizona Cardinals (8-2, Previously #5) - Arguably the most complete team in the NFC played host to the Bengals and beat arguably the most complete team in the AFC.  It was a good battle with the Cardinals coming out on top and picking up a win against a potential Super Bowl opponent.

2. Carolina Panthers (10-0, Previously #3) - I will begin this the way I seem to always begin the Panthers blurb: I still don't think this will be the team representing the NFC, when it's all said and done... having said that, they are on fire this season and have all but locked up a playoff birth in just the 10th week of the season.  That's pretty impressive.

1. New England Patriots (10-0, Previously #1) - Opponents haven't been able to stop them, injuries haven't been able to stop them.  The toughest game (on paper) left on their schedule comes this week, when they go to Denver and try to put another one in the win column.