NFC North: 2013 NFL Week 14 Power Rankings

A weekly examination of the Packers’ Power Ranking.

Preseason: 5 | Last week: 17 | Power Ranking since 2002

A tie against the Minnesota Vikings cost the Packers two spots in the rankings last week, so it was surprising that one of their worst losses in the Mike McCarthy era -- Thursday’s 40-10 blowout at the Detroit Lions -- didn’t cost them more than that.

Still, the Packers continued their steady drop without quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Each of the last four weeks, they have fallen two spots in the rankings. One of the six ESPN voters placed them as high as 15th while two of the voters had them as low as 22nd this week.

For the second time in three games, they play a team ranked in the bottom five in the rankings. They could only manage a tie against the Vikings, who this week check in at No. 28. Perhaps they will fare better against the Atlanta Falcons, who despite Sunday’s win over the Buffalo Bills are ranked 29th.

As always, you can rank all 32 teams yourself.
A weekly examination of the Bears’ Power Ranking:

Preseason: 13 | Last Week: 14 | Power Ranking since 2002

The Chicago Bears dropped a spot in the NFC North standings by virtue of their 23-20 overtime loss to the Minnesota Vikings, and also fell back one place in the Power Rankings from 14th to No. 15, the team’s lowest ranking since the start of the season.

The Bears severely jeopardized their postseason aspirations with the defeat at Minnesota, and the degree of difficulty only increases with the club facing a well-rested Dallas Cowboys team Monday night at Soldier Field. Because of a putrid 3-6 conference record, Chicago more or less needs to win the NFC North to advance to the playoffs.

That’s still possible, but the Bears need the first-place Lions to slip over the next four weeks.

The possible good news is that the Bears could welcome back starting quarterback Jay Cutler and stalwart linebacker Lance Briggs for the matchup against the Cowboys. Briggs hasn’t played since Oct. 20, and Cutler has missed the past three games with a high ankle sprain. Bears coach Marc Trestman said the team won’t know about their availability until later in the week, but if they return, it could boost some life into a team mired in a two-game skid.

Despite an awful showing against the run at Minnesota, the Bears did pump up the pass rush in part because of healthier bodies along the defensive line -- a situation expected to improve as new addition Jeremiah Ratliff works back into playing shape. The addition of Briggs should at least bring back some stability in the front seven.

Elsewhere in the NFC North, the first-place Lions moved up one spot to 12th in this week’s rankings, while the Green Bay Packers fell another two spots to No. 19. The Packers have fallen two slots in each of the past four weeks with quarterback Aaron Rodgers out. There’s a chance the quarterback could return for Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons.

Minnesota, meanwhile, remained at No. 28 despite its win over the Bears.

The Bears received two 14th-place votes from the panelists, one for No. 15, two for 16th, and one for the No. 19 spot.

While the games remaining on the schedule certainly appear to be winnable, it’s worth pondering how much fight the Bears have left in them. After the loss to the Vikings, the scene in the locker room was one of dejection and regret for missing out on a prime opportunity, and some players even wondered privately whether the defeat ended the club’s season.

For the Bears to have any chance of advancing to the postseason, they’ll need to forget about the disappointment from the past two outings and focus on the task at hand, while knowing in the back of their minds they still might need help to make the playoffs even if they win out.
A weekly examination of the Vikings' Power Ranking:

Preseason: 17 | Last Week: 28 | Power Ranking since 2002

The Vikings stayed put in this week's rankings, as the bottom of the NFL continued to churn. Three of the teams that had two wins heading into last week -- the Vikings, Falcons and Jaguars -- all won on Sunday, and the Houston Texans are now the only team in the league without at least three wins. That means the bottom of the Power Rankings -- and the top of the NFL draft board -- will likely continue to change between now and the end of the season.

Current Vikings players, as well as coach Leslie Frazier, have little reason to be concerned about next year's draft pick when their jobs are on the line, though, and right now, the Vikings are quietly playing some of their best football this season. They're 2-1-1 in their last four games, and could have pushed that mark to 3-1 had they been able to hang on to a late lead at Lambeau Field. They rallied from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the Bears on Sunday, in a game in which both teams were making plenty of mistakes, and the victory served as a reminder that if not for the Vikings' last-minute collapses in a number of games this season, they could be at or near the top of a mediocre NFC North division.

As they head to Baltimore this week, they'll have to conquer their road struggles to get another win. The Vikings haven't won away from the Metrodome this season, and were just 3-5 on the road last year. What's more, they've been abysmal in cold weather; they have a 1-6-1 record when the temperature is 40 or below since 2006, and the game-time temperature is expected to be 40 degrees on Sunday. As the Vikings prepare to move outside for the next two years, a pair of cold-weather road games in Baltimore and Cincinnati this month could be a good test.