Week 14 saw a shakeup at the top of the rankings for the first time since the Phillies won a game Eagles were considered to have a shot at the playoffs. The Falcons and Texans both were dislodged from the top two spots, and a familiar northeastern franchise is now the NFL’s top team. Meanwhile, the Bears are fading fast and not even Ben Roethlisberger can help the Steelers.
Coming up: What did Larry Fitzgerald do to deserve this? How do the Jets have six wins? And does Nick Foles still have his Bobby Hoying jersey or did his mom donate it to Goodwill?
1. New England (10-3); Last week: 3
Week 14 result: Won vs. Houston, 42-14
It’s never fun to rank the Patriots No. 1, but they earned it with their beatdown of the Texans. Tom Brady threw four touchdown passes, two to Aaron Hernandez and another to Brandon Lloyd, who also scored a touchdown off a Danny Woodhead fumble. New England has won seven games in a row and scored more than 40 points in four of their last six.
Next up: vs. San Francisco
2. Denver (10-3); Last week: 4
Week 14 result: Won at Oakland, 26-13
The Broncos won their eighth straight as Peyton Manning threw for 310 yards and a touchdown and Knowshon Moreno ran for 119 yards and another score. Denver is tied with New England for the second seed in the AFC but the Patriots own the tiebreaker.
Next up: vs. Baltimore
3. Houston (11-2); Last week: 1
Week 14 result: Lost at New England, 42-14
In what was dubbed the biggest regular season game in franchise history, the Texans trailed 21-0 at the half and never got closer than that. Matt Schaub’s numbers were respectable but with his first playoff start coming up next month, the pressure is beginning to mount. He’s not getting much help from the defense though. The Texans have been outscored 84-38 in their two losses to the Patriots and Packers and allowed more than 30 points in three of their last four games.
Next up: vs. Indianapolis
4. Atlanta (11-2); Last week: 2
Week 14 result: Lost at Carolina, 30-20
The Falcons have known they were going to make the playoffs for some time now, and hopefully that’s the reason for their lackluster effort against the Panthers. Atlanta’s defense allowed the game’s first 23 points and 475 yards from Carolina’s offense. Even with the loss, Atlanta has a 1.5 game lead for the top seed in the NFC.
Next up: vs. New York Giants
5. Green Bay (9-4); Last week: 5
Week 14 result: Won vs. Detroit, 27-20
In the snow on the not-so-frozen tundra of modern-day Lambeau Field, the Packers fell behind 14-0 to the Lions. The comeback started with a Mike Daniels fumble return for a touchdown, one of the more athletic plays you’ll see from a defensive lineman. Green Bay went on to score two rushing touchdowns in the second half and held the Lions to just two field goals.
Next up: at Chicago
6. New York Giants (8-5); Last week: 6
Week 14 result: Won vs. New Orleans, 52-27
David Wilson, the Giants’ first-round pick in this year’s draft, had the breakout game of his rookie year, returning a kick for a touchdown and rushing for 100 yards and two more scores, one on a 52-yard sweep. Wilson had 327 all-purpose yards. Eli Manning also threw for four touchdown passes, each to a different receiver.
Next up: at Atlanta
7. San Francisco (9-3-1); Last week: 7
Week 14 result: Won vs. Miami, 27-13
Colin Kaepernick had an ordinary but efficient game until he ran for a 50-yard touchdown (which he owes all to his ink). Frank Gore and Anthony Dixon also ran for touchdowns, while the 49ers’ defense limited Miami to 227 total yards.
Next up: at New England
8. Seattle (8-5); Last week: 12
Week 14 result: Won vs. Arizona, 58-0
Marshawn Lynch needed just 11 carries to run for 128 yards and three touchdowns as the Seahawks improved to 6-0 at home. Seattle scored the game’s first 58 points with the help of four second-quarter touchdowns and built a 38-0 halftime lead. Pete Carroll used the occasion to get highly-paid backup Matt Flynn some game tape for the Seahawks to use to trade him this offseason.
Next up: at Buffalo
9. Indianapolis (9-4); Last week: 11
Week 14 result: Won vs. Tennessee, 27-23
It wasn’t Andrew Luck’s finest performance as a pro, but the Colts won with a fourth-quarter comeback for the sixth time this season. Luck was just 16/34 for 196 yards and two interceptions, with his lone touchdown pass coming in the first quarter. Adam Vinatieri hit two field goals in the fourth quarter, one from 53 yards to tie the game and the other from 40 yards to provide the winning margin.
Next up: at Houston
10. Washington (7-6); Last week: 13
Week 14 result: Won vs. Baltimore, 31-28 (OT)
For those of you who thought the Redskins were nothing with Robert Griffin III, you were wrong for at least a quarter. After Griffin suffered a scary and somehow not-that-serious knee injury, Kirk Cousins led the Redskins to the tying touchdown and two-point conversion to force overtime. After Baltimore failed to score on their first possession, Richard Crawford returned a punt 64 yards to set up Kai Forbath’s game-winning field goal.
Next up: at Cleveland
11. Chicago (8-5); Last week: 8
Week 14 result: Lost at Minnesota, 21-14
The Bears lost their second straight game, fourth in five and Jay Cutler to a head injury for the second time in that span. Adrian Peterson shredded the Brian Urlacher-less Bears defense and Jay Cutler completed just 22/44 passes and threw two interceptions before leaving the game in the fourth quarter. Chicago now trails Green Bay by one game in the NFC North.
Next up: vs. Green Bay
12. Baltimore (9-4); Last week: 10
Week 14 result: Lost at Washington, 31-28 (OT)
On Sunday, Joe Flacco threw for three touchdowns and Ray Rice ran for another, but the Ravens’ defense allowed the Redskins’ backup quarterback to tie a game they led 28-20 with 4:47 left. On Monday, Baltimore fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Now Flacco can really spread his wings!
Next up: vs. Denver
13. Pittsburgh (7-6); Last week: 9
Week 14 result: Lost vs. San Diego, 34-24
Ben Roethlisberger returned from injury and threw three touchdown passes but the Steelers fell behind 27-3 in the third quarter and never recovered. Against a San Diego team that has struggled to hold leads, Pittsburgh rushed for just 69 yards and failed to force a turnover from Philip Rivers. Instead of taking the ball away, the Steelers released “Buttfumble: The Remix”.
Next up: at Dallas
14. Minnesota (7-6); Last week: 16
Week 14 result: Won vs. Chicago, 21-14
Adrian Peterson decided he was just going to do it all himself again, rushing for 154 yards and two touchdowns. The Vikings’ once again had no passing attack without Percy Harvin and with Christian Ponder, who threw for just 91 yards on 11/17 passing. Harrison Smith accounted for the Vikings’ other score on a 56-yard interception return.
Next up: at St. Louis
15. Dallas (7-6); Last week: 17
Week 14 result: Won at Cincinnati, 20-19
The death of Jerry Brown (in which teammate Josh Brent is charged with intoxication manslaughter) marked the second straight Saturday of bad news for the NFL. The Cowboys overcame a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter and won on a 40-yard Dan Bailey field goal as time expired.
Next up: vs. Pittsburgh
16. Cincinnati (7-6); Last week: 14
Week 14 result: Lost vs. Dallas, 20-19
The Bengals missed a chance to move a game ahead of the Steelers for the AFC’s final playoff berth. Holding a 19-10 lead in the fourth quarter, Cincinnati allowed Dallas to get within two points with 6:35 remaining and lost on a field goal as time expired. The defeat was the Bengals’ first in four games.
Next up: at Philadelphia
17. Tampa Bay (6-7); Last week: 15
Week 14 result: Lost vs. Philadelphia, 23-21
This loss to the Eagles crippled the Buccaneers’ playoff chances. Josh Freeman threw two touchdown passes but could not even complete fifty percent of his passes against a defense that concedes that to quarterbacks just for putting their name on the scoresheet. Holding a 21-10 lead with 7:21 remaining, Tampa Bay allowed the Eagles to drive twice for touchdowns, the game-winner occurring as time expired.
Next up: at New Orleans
18. St. Louis (6-6-1); Last week: 19
Week 14 result: Won at Buffalo, 15-12
For the second week in a row, Sam Bradford engineered a late-game comeback. Bradford’s 13-yard pass to Brandon Gibson with 48 seconds left gave St. Louis the win. The Rams have won three in a row and remain 1.5 games out of a playoff spot in a crowded NFC field.
Next up: vs. Minnesota
19. Detroit (5-8); Last week: 20
Week 14 result: Lost at Green Bay, 27-20
The Lions were enjoying a surprising 14-3 lead over the Packers until Matthew Stafford let go of the football just a bit too early in his throwing motion. Mike Daniels returned the fumble for a touchdown, and Detroit was outscored 17-6 in the second half as they lost their fifth in a row. Ndamukong Suh didn’t do anything controversial this week, which is the biggest surprise of all.
Next up: at Arizona
20. San Diego (5-8); Last week: 23
Week 14 result: Won at Pittsburgh, 34-24
Of course Philip Rivers and the Chargers beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh with Ben Roethlisberger back in the lineup. Rivers threw three touchdown passes and didn’t turn the ball over once. Wonder how many anxious columns there will be this week worrying that Norv Turner will be back.
Next up: vs. Carolina
21. New Orleans (5-8); Last week: 18
Week 14 result: Lost at New York Giants, 52-27
After climbing back to .500 after an 0-5 start, the Saints have now lost three in a row. Drew Brees threw two interceptions to follow up his five-interception performance from Week 13. Any chance of the Saints playing in the Super Bowl in New Orleans is basically gone.
Next up: vs. Tampa Bay
22. Cleveland (5-8); Last week: 24
Week 14 result: Won vs. Kansas City, 30-7
These aren’t your Browns of September 2012. Then again, they played your Chiefs of 2012. After Jamaal Charles score an 80-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage, the Browns scored 30 unanswered points. Trent Richardson ran for two touchdowns and Travis Benjamin returned a punt 93 yards for another score. Cleveland is 5-3 after an 0-5 start.
Next up: vs. Washington
23. Buffalo (5-8); Last week: 22
Week 14 result: Lost vs. St. Louis, 15-12
Buffalo lost in the last minute of the game, for the second time this season, on Rams quarterback Sam Bradford’s touchdown pass to Brandon Gibson. Any chance at a comeback ended when Ryan Fitzpatrick was intercepted with 12 seconds left. To make matters worse, the Bills also lost Fred Jackson for the rest of the season.
Next up: vs. Seattle
24. Miami (5-8); Last week: 21
Week 14 result: Lost at San Francisco, 27-13
Miami has lost five of their last six as a surprising start has turned into needing to win their last three games to finish at .500. The Dolphins scored first but managed only two field goals until Ryan Tannehill’s touchdown pass to Anthony Fasano in the fourth quarter.
Next up: vs. Jacksonville
25. Carolina (4-9); Last week: 27
Week 14 result: Won vs. Atlanta, 30-20
The Panthers got their much-desired revenge against the Falcons after blowing a lead in the teams’ first meeting this season. Cam Newton threw for 287 yards and two touchdowns and ran for a 72-yard score as Carolina jumped out to a 23-0 lead
Next up: at San Diego
26. Philadelphia (4-9); Last week: 28
Week 14 result: Won at Tampa Bay, 23-21
Eagles fans were surely torn between rooting for an end to the losing streak and rooting for a better draft pick, but it was hard not to get sucked into the excitement of Nick Foles erasing an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit. Foles threw a touchdown pass to Clay Harbor and another to Jeremy Macln as time expired to end Philadelphia’s eight-game losing streak. Andy Reid also said Foles called the play on the final touchdown. I’m sure Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick were happy to hear that.
Next up: vs. Cincinnati
27. New York Jets (6-7); Last week: 26
Week 14 result: Won at Jacksonville, 17-10
Tim Tebow and the Jets traveled to Tebow’s hometown and won a game that no one watched. Tebow had no impact on the game aside from inspiring the signs in the crowd, and Mark Sanchez had just a slightly bigger impact (just 19 pass attempts), which is the main reason the Jets won. Bilal Powell ran for 78 yards and a touchdown and Shonn Greene ran for 77 and a score. The Jets are somehow 6-7.
Next up: at Tennessee
28. Tennessee (4-9); Last week: 25
Week 14 result: Lost at Indianapolis, 27-23
Tennessee got the benefit of the doubt on an interception Will Witherspoon returned for a touchdown in building a 20-7 halftime lead, but managed only a field goal in the second half as the Colts rallied for the win. Jake Locker threw two interceptions, making it three games in a row he’s thrown at least that many. The Titans are now 2-6 in games Locker has started this season.
Next up: vs. New York Jets
29. Jacksonville (2-11); Last week: 30
Week 14 result: Lost vs. New York Jets, 17-10
Not even a visit from Tim Tebow can cure the Jaguars’ woes. Jacksonville held a commanding 3-0 lead at halftime but allowed 17 unanswered points in the second half before a Mark Owens touchdown run. Chad Henne completed just 21/43 passes for 185 yard and was intercepted twice.
Next up: at Miami
30. Oakland (3-10); Last week: 32
Week 14 result: Lost vs. Denver, 26-13
The Raiders didn’t get blown out by the Broncos, so that gives them a bump in the rankings. Darren McFadden returned to the field only to get hurt again, and Carson Palmer thwarted a potential scoring drive by throwing an interception and lost a fumble that set up one of the Broncos’ scores. Those factors, combined with the loss, made it a pretty typical Raiders game. Oakland has lost six straight.
Next up: at Kansas City
31 Kansas City (2-11); Last week: 31
Week 14 result: Lost at Cleveland, 30-7
Jamaal Charles ran for an 80-yard touchdown on the first play of the game. Then the Chiefs allowed the next 30 points. Charles finished with 165 rushing yards, more than half of the offense’s total yards. And Brady Quinn hit a referee in the head with a pass.
Next up: vs. Oakland
32. Arizona (4-9); Last week: 29
Week 14 result: Lost at Seattle, 58-0
Nine straight losses. Six points in the last two games. Pete Carroll running up the score on you. This is what rock bottom feels like. Poor Larry Fitzgerald. His dad is ready to transfer him to a different high school NFL franchise.
Next up: vs. Detroit