NFC West: 2013 NFL Week 15 Power Rankings

Power Rankings: No. 1 Seattle Seahawks

December, 10, 2013
A weekly examination of the Seahawks' Power Ranking:

Preseason: 1 | Last Week: 1 | Power Ranking since 2002

In college football, you can’t lose a game and stay No. 1. But the Seattle Seahawks just proved you can in our Power Rankings.

Despite Seattle's 19-17 loss at San Francisco on a field goal in the final seconds, our voters still believe the Seahawks are the top team in the NFL.

Sunday was a game the 49ers had to win to stay in strong playoff contention, playing at home against a division rival. They held serve, barely, but the lead changed hands six times and neither team led by more than six points.

The Seahawks played well, but penalties at key moments killed potential scoring drives.

Seattle and Denver have the best record in the league at 11-2 and appear to be on a collision course for the Super Bowl. The Broncos zoomed past Tennessee in the second half to win 51-28 at Denver on Sunday, but our voters felt the Seahawks' close loss to a much better team made for a better argument in keeping them No. 1.
A weekly examination of the Cardinals' Power Ranking:

Preseason: 26 | Last Week: 13 | Power Ranking since 2002

Welcome back. After a dismal performance in Philadelphia knocked the Cardinals out of the top 10, a nearly perfect outing by quarterback Carson Palmer helped push Arizona back among the best teams in the league. Sunday’s win over the Rams was Arizona’s first in the NFC West since Week 1 of 2012 and it showed the offensive ingenuity of coach Bruce Arians.

Because of his injured elbow, Palmer didn’t throw a single pass in practice, Arians said, so the coach simply reworked the game plan to help Palmer and to avoid a stout St. Louis pass rush. It worked, as Palmer had the highest completion percentage for an NFC quarterback this season who threw it at least 25 times.

Sure, the game was at home and it was against a Rams team that doesn’t know which squad will show up each week. But the ability of Arians to adapt and of Palmer to react could make this team dangerous down the stretch. That being said, Arizona dropped the proverbial ball against a playoff team on the road against the Eagles, so a lot can be taken away from Sunday’s road game against Tennessee.

Power Rankings: No. 20 St. Louis Rams

December, 10, 2013
A weekly examination of the Rams' Power Ranking:

Preseason: 15 | Last Week: 20 | Power Ranking since 2002

Two impressive wins in consecutive weeks against Indianapolis and Chicago bolstered the Rams up the Power Rankings to No. 19, the highest they'd been since an appearance at No. 17 in Week 3. With back-to-back losses in which they were mostly dominated, the Rams haven't moved much because the teams around them in the rankings have also been losing. This week, they stayed the same despite a 30-10 loss to Arizona.

Among the six-member panel, the voters had the Rams ranked anywhere from a high of No. 19 (Jamison Hensley) to a low of 23 (John Clayton and Dan Graziano).

From watching the Rams up close the past two weeks, it's almost hard to believe they're the 20th-best team in the NFL. At the same time, I can't disagree with their ranking when I look at the teams behind them on the list. Of the teams ranked 21-32, I don't see a single one that I'd put ahead of the Rams. It speaks to the ever-increasing gap between the haves and have nots around the league that a 20-point loss didn't alter the Rams' ranking at all.
A weekly examination of the 49ers' Power Ranking:

Preseason: 3 | Last Week: 6 | Power Ranking since 2002

It’s December, and that means there’s a logjam at the top of Power Rankings.

The 49ers just beat the No. 1-ranked team (Seattle stayed atop the Power Rankings despite losing to the 49ers, by the way) and moved up one spot.

On the surface, you might think a win over the top-ranked team would inspire a big move. But there’s not much room for the 49ers to move. In reality, a No. 5 ranking for San Francisco is strong.

They are 9-4 and are ranked one spot ahead of Carolina, which is also 9-4. The Panthers beat the 49ers by one point a month ago. The 49ers are also ranked higher than Kansas City (No. 7) even though the Chiefs are 10-3.

Thus, there’s no doubt San Francisco is considered one of the NFL’s finest teams as we head down the stretch.