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Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Power Rankings: No. 7 New England

By Mike Reiss

A weekly examination of the Patriots' ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 6 | Last Week: 4 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

The New England Patriots drop three spots after a three-week stay at No. 4. No arguments here.

The 2013 NFL season has been a moving target, and the thing that stands out most about the Patriots is that they could beat anyone from No. 1 to 32 ... but also lose to anyone from No. 1 to 32.

So at this point, as it's been all along for coach Bill Belichick and his players, now the external viewpoint probably is more aligned with what is happening internally. It's less about the bigger-picture view as it is week-to-week survival and clinching a playoff berth.

Even though they rank seventh, I expect the Patriots to be underdogs on the road Sunday in Baltimore (No. 12). That's a tough place to win and a tough opponent on the whole.

So after all the media-based talk last week about possibly clinching a No. 1 seed following the Broncos' home loss to the Chargers, few should be surprised if the Patriots enter the season finale at home against the No. 25 Bills needing a win to qualify for the playoffs.