Peyton Manning and the Broncos look like the best team in the NFL heading into the final week of the regular season. - Dustin Bradford
In the final power rankings of the 2012 season before the playoffs begin, it's now or never for a lot of teams at the top half of the rankings.
The bad news: this is the final edition of the 2012 NFL Power rankings here at SB Nation Minnesota.
The good news: this is the final edition of the 2012 NFL Power rankings here at SB Nation Minnesota because the playoffs start next week, which render any and all power rankings even more useless than they were throughout the season!
Not to go all Eminem on you, but a lot of teams only get one shot this week. For some it's the shot at home-field advantage or a first round bye. For others it's a shot at the playoffs--some control their destiny while others need varying degrees of help. And for the rest, it's a shot at finishing with some pride or just a shot at a better draft pick.
As always, we list our power rankings with each team's record followed by how their ranking changed compared to last week.
- Broncos (12-3, NC): They might not get the top seed in the AFC, but they'll be the toughest out in the conference with how they've been playing for the past two and a half months.
- Falcons (13-2, +1): The road to the Super Bowl in the NFC goes through A-town. That road hasn't been very tough for opponents the past couple seasons. However, Atlanta's strong finish seems to suggest that the road will be a little more treacherous for visitors this time around.
- Patriots (11-4, +2): To be honest, they didn't look that good on Sunday in Jacksonville. Then again, it's kind of hard to get motivated when mediocre still gets you a win against the Jags.
- Packers (11-4, +2): They're baaaaaack. Green Bay is clicking and getting healthy at just the right time.
- 49ers (10-4-1, -3): Just burn the game tape from Seattle and focus on improving for the playoffs, because that loss on Sunday night was atrocious.
- Texans (12-3, -2): See, Houston? A 17-point home loss is the main reason why not many people are taking your team seriously, even though they're still the AFC's top seed.
- Seahawks (10-5, NC): Everyone else in the NFC better be rooting for San Francisco to beat Arizona this week. Because nobody wants to visit Seattle in the playoffs.
- Ravens (10-5, +1): Just when you thought Baltimore was backing in, they put a smack down on the defending champs. There's still a lot of work to do for this likely #4 seed to make noise in the playoffs though.
- Redskins (9-6, -1): They got the job done in Philly, but Robert Griffin III didn't quite look right. Washington will need a better effort to clinch the NFC East against Dallas.
- Colts (10-5, NC): A brief overview of the last decade of Colts history: from 2002 to 2010, they won at least ten games and made the playoffs every season. In 2011, they sucked. In 2012, they're back in the playoffs with ten wins and a game to spare. Must be rough.
- Vikings (9-6, +2): Minnesota has a winning season, the best running back in the world, and a chance to beat their most hated rival to clinch an unexpected playoff birth. Yeah, I'd say their 2012 is going just slightly better than 2011 did.
- Bengals (9-6, +2): Cincinnati has made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. If that didn't end the world, then why were so many people worried about the Mayans?
- Bears (9-6, +2): Chicago is Green Bay's biggest fan on Sunday, but they have to take care of Detroit first if they want their rivals' game to mean anything to them.
- Cowboys (8-7, -2): In 2008, they got blown out on the road by a division rival (Philadelphia) on the last week of the season and missed the playoffs. In 2011, they got blown out on the road by a division rival (New York) on the last week of the season and missed the playoffs. In 2012, they play a division rival (Washington) on the road. If they lose, they miss the playoffs. Will recent history repeat itself?
- Giants (8-7, -4): Psst...hey, Giants! You can't turn it on in the postseason if you don't make the postseason in the first place. And unless a lot of things break New York's way in Week 17, we're guaranteed a new Super Bowl champion this year.
- Saints (7-8, +1): This team makes the playoffs if Sean Payton was around all year, right?
- Rams (7-7-1, +1): They won't make the postseason like the Colts did, but finishing over .500 would be a pretty big achievement for this perennial also-ran.
- Steelers (7-8, -2): All season, everyone kept on waiting for Pittsburgh to finally figure it out and play like they were capable of playing. It never happened.
- Panthers (6-9, NC): They finish the season in New Orleans in what should be called the "Where The Hell Was This In September And October?" Bowl.
- Dolphins (7-8, NC): 2012 was a move in the right direction. If they add a few pieces in the offseason, they might just move into playoff contention.
- Chargers (6-9, +3): When San Diego is ranked this high, you know the bottom third of the league is especially dreadful this year.
- Buccaneers (6-9, -1): This can't possibly be the same team that was 6-4 and racking up points on just about everyone. I simply refuse to believe it.
- Jets (6-9, -1): The NFL is a quarterback-driven league. The Jets' quarterback situation has driven them into the ground.
- Browns (5-10, -1): Another very "Cleveland" season. Should we just put them down for another four to six wins next year?
- Bills (5-9, +1): Buffalo still hasn't made the playoffs this century, and it doesn't look like they're close.
- Cardinals (5-9, +1): Brian Hoyer is probably their best option at quarterback. How the hell is that even possible?
- Titans (5-9, -2): There's throwing in the towel, and there's whatever Tennessee did against Green Bay on Sunday.
- Lions (4-11, NC): Calvin Johnson's record is the only thing memorable about the 2012 Lions.
- Eagles (4-11, NC): Kind of fitting that Philly fans will get one last game with Michael Vick and Andy Reid this week.
- Raiders (4-11, NC): Zero winning seasons and playoff berths since 2002. Good thing Buffalo is around; otherwise that statistic might be embarrassing.
- Jaguars (2-13, -NC): Officially the worst team in franchise history--but everyone knew that about two months ago.
- Chiefs (2-13, NC): They're one more disappointment away from locking up the #1 overall pick...in a draft with nobody that really looks worthy of being the top pick. The Kansas City Chiefs, ladies and gentlemen!