NFC West: 2013 NFL Week 17 Power Rankings

A weekly examination of the 49ers' ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 3 | Last Week: 3 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

Could anything make San Francisco 49ers fans upset on Tuesday? They might even let this one slide.

The 49ers dropped one spot in the latest Power Rankings, despite enjoying one of the most exciting victories of recent memory. The 49ers closed out Week 16 with a wild 34-24 win Monday night over Atlanta in what was likely the last game at Candlestick Park.

The 49ers clinched a playoff berth with the win. They are now 11-4 and have won five straight games and 10 of the past 12. They are a model of NFL consistency.

However, they fell a spot because Carolina moved from No. 4 to No. 3 after defeating rival New Orleans. It’s difficult to argue the 49ers should be ranked higher than the Panthers, anyway. They are both 11-4, and the Panthers did beat San Francisco in November.

Still, the bottom line is the 49ers are going to the playoffs on a roll, and that’s more important than anything at this point.

Power Rankings: No. 19 St. Louis Rams

December, 24, 2013
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A weekly examination of the Rams' ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 15 | Last Week: 20 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

It took another double-digit home win, but the Rams finally got a slight bump in the rankings this week, moving up a spot after holding steady at No. 20 for the past three weeks. A 23-13 win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was enough to earn the Rams a move as they edge closer to their preseason ranking of 15th.

The six-member voting panel came pretty close to a consensus with four voters placing the Rams at either No. 18 or 19. Dan Graziano had the Rams the lowest at No. 20, while Jamison Hensley thinks the most of the current edition of the team, jumping them all the way up to No. 16.

At 7-8, the Rams have matched their win total from a season ago and have a chance to finish 8-8 for their first .500 or better record since 2006. In looking at the teams around them, the Rams are ranked second among the four 7-8 teams with only Pittsburgh ahead of them. Green Bay also sits in front of the Rams with a 7-7-1 record. Looking at the big picture, it's hard to argue the Rams should be any higher or lower than this spot.

However, in looking at their résumé from a BCS-type of approach, the Rams have more impressive wins than the Steelers and Packers. Thoroughly convincing wins against New Orleans, Indianapolis and Chicago and another win against Arizona (though way back in Week 1) is a better quartet of victories than that of most teams in the league, let alone the ones directly in front of the Rams.

Power Rankings: No. 1 Seattle Seahawks

December, 24, 2013
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A weekly examination of the Seahawks' ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 1 | Last Week: 1 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

A few doubts may be creeping in for some people, but our ESPN.com voters are keeping the faith.

The Seattle Seahawks have lost twice in the last three games. And both times they retained the No. 1 spot in the ESPN.com Power Rankings.

Despite their disappointing 17-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, the first home loss for the Seahawks in two years and Seattle’s worst offensive performance of the season, Seattle remains No. 1 in our rankings.

The Seahawks received four of six first-place votes, with the Denver Broncos claiming the other two top votes. Seattle and Denver are tied for the NFL’s best record at 12-3.

Seattle coach Pete Carroll had a message for some of his players after the Arizona loss.

"I’m calling on leadership," Carroll said. "I’m calling for guys to step up that have been the leaders of this team and not be too full of yourself. You’ve got to get focused and get right. So I wanted to make sure that the guys had the right thought in mind and that they would carry the right message and they would understand. With so much frustration coming off the field, it’s a lot to ask, but we did.”

Carroll didn’t specify who he was talking about, but the players he probably wants to set as an example now are the ones who have led the team all season: free safety Earl Thomas, cornerback Richard Sherman and defensive end Red Bryant on defense, along with quarterback Russell Wilson and receiver Doug Baldwin on offense.

Despite the loss to Arizona, the Seahawks can reach their regular-season goals of clinching the NFC West title and home-field advantage in the playoffs with a victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
A weekly examination of the Cardinals' ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 26 | Last Week: 8 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

The Arizona Cardinals go into maybe the most hostile environment in the NFL, dominate on defense, struggle on offense, but still hand Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson his first home loss of his career, and they drop in the ESPN.com Power Rankings? That just shows how tough the NFL is this season. For the first time this year, Arizona won and dropped in the rankings. Albeit it one spot, it's still a fall after the franchise's biggest win in about four years. In fact, the Seahawks stayed No. 1 after a loss ... and the Cardinals fell after a win. Make sense? Nope.

Two teams Arizona beat -- Indianapolis and Carolina -- are ranked above it, as are two teams who the Cards lost to, the Saints and 49ers. They'll be out to exact revenge on the Niners on Sunday, with their playoff hopes on the line. Arizona needs to win or tie and have the Saints lose (or tie if Arizona wins), to get in the playoffs. The Cards are the only team in the top 10 not in the playoffs yet, despite having one of the best defenses in the NFL.

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