It's hard to explain how a team can look so good one week, and so bad seven days later.
This isn't a team simply winning a close game one week and losing a close game the next week. Close NFL games are coin flips. You'll win some, lose some.
This is about teams looking entirely different from one week to the next. From great to incompetent, or vice versa.
The Vikings beat the Eagles, then got blown out by the Bengals. Speaking of the Eagles, that 54-11 win over the Bears on Sunday night makes them a chic pick as a playoff sleeper, right? Don't forget that seven days earlier they lost 48-30 to a 4-10-1 Vikings team.
And what about the Bengals? They went from being blown out at Pittsburgh in Week 15 to beating Minnesota 42-14.
The Patriots lost to Miami two weeks ago and then scored a 41-7 blowout at the Ravens, who were coming off a win at Detroit. And those Dolphins lost 19-0 to the Bills on Sunday, and barely gained 100 yards.
Maybe this is all due to parity. But it's going to make the playoffs tough to predict.
The Indianapolis Colts might be the best example of the NFL roller coaster. They were great early in the season, beating Denver, Seattle and San Francisco. Then they played mostly bad football for a six-game stretch after Reggie Wayne's injury. Then suddenly on Sunday they dominated an 11-win Chiefs team in Kansas City. How can you predict what a team like that will do in the playoffs?
Really, how can you predict what any team will do in the playoffs? From week to week, it all changes.
Here are this week's power rankings:
32. Houston Texans (2-13, LW: 32)
They gave the Broncos a pretty good run for three quarters, then fell apart in the fourth. They'll be hoping that this "Teddy Bridgewater might come back to college!" thing is just a weird bluff.
31. Washington Redskins (3-12, LW: 31)
Lost in the Cowboys' game-winning touchdown on fourth and goal was that Tony Romo could have stood in the pocket another 10 seconds and none of the Redskins' rushers would have sniffed him.
30. Oakland Raiders (4-11, LW: 29)
Their indecisiveness at quarterback has hurt Matt McGloin and Terrelle Pryor. Going back to Pryor now just makes it look like they have no idea what they want to do.
I hope the Jaguars become good before linebacker Paul Posluszny is past his prime. He's too good of a player to be stuck on such bad teams.
28. Atlanta Falcons (4-11, LW: 30)
They played a lot tougher on Monday night than anyone expected. They were 10 yards away from beating the 49ers ... which is exactly what happened in last season's NFC championship game.
27. Minnesota Vikings (4-10-1, LW: 26)
I love Adrian Peterson's competitiveness, just not sure why he's playing at less than 100 percent.
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11, LW: 25)
Linebacker Lavonte David has had an unbelievable year. The cupboard isn't bare in Tampa Bay; there's a lot of talent in place.
25. Cleveland Browns (4-11, LW: 24)
When a new quarterback comes in next year, he better hope the Browns also invest in a running game to take some pressure off him.
24. New York Giants (6-9, LW: 27)
Say what you will about the Lions choking, but it was a nice win for the Giants. It's a good sign going forward that they didn't give up on the season.
23. Buffalo Bills (6-9, LW: 23)
The Bills held the Dolphins to 103 total yards. That's unbelievable. Let's see if the defense can build off that for 2014.
22. Tennessee Titans (6-9, LW: 22)
If they beat Houston in the finale, you have to wonder if their middling draft slot from a 7-9 record means they'd give Jake Locker a longer look at quarterback. There's no sure thing to be had at quarterback where the Titans will pick.
21. St. Louis Rams (7-8, LW: 21)
The Rams have ends Robert Quinn and Chris Long. Would they take Jadeveon Clowney with the Redskins' pick they own?
20. Detroit Lions (7-8, LW: 16)
I'll just say this: The Lions should be very happy they're on the road this week.
19. New York Jets (7-8, LW: 20)
I think they're going to fire Rex Ryan just because they feel like that's what they should do, not because they have a better option in mind.
18. Dallas Cowboys (8-7, LW: 19)
I'm not saying losing Tony Romo is a good thing, because it's clearly not, but as long as he's not too rusty, Kyle Orton isn't a terrible emergency option. There are a lot of teams that have it way worse.
17. Green Bay Packers (7-7-1, LW: 17)
Clay Matthews hurt his thumb again. Eddie Lacy is dealing with an ankle injury. And Aaron Rodgers still doesn't seem close to playing. The Bears looked horrendous at Philadelphia, but can this Packers team go into Chicago and win?
It would be so fitting if the 8-8 Steelers won a five-team tiebreaker to get the AFC's sixth seed. That final spot is a confusing mess and has been all season.
15. Chicago Bears (8-7, LW: 12)
Unfortunately, a matchup of the best rivalry in the NFL with a division title on the line will come between two teams that are irreparably flawed. The Bears' defense is a nightmare.
14. San Diego Chargers (8-7, LW: 15)
In San Diego's last 10 games, running back Ryan Mathews has five 100-yard games and had 99 on Sunday. He might be finally figuring it out.
13. Miami Dolphins (8-7, LW: 13)
The problem with having a really bad offensive line is games like Sunday at Buffalo can pop up at any time. They're lucky Ryan Tannehill is still in one piece for Week 17.
12. Baltimore Ravens (8-7, LW: 10)
I can understand losing to a very good New England team, but to lose like that is just poor. Shows that even if they get in the playoffs, their ceiling is very limited.
11. Indianapolis Colts (10-5, LW: 14)
There are six teams with 11 or more wins this season. Indianapolis has defeated four of them. Then why have they had so many ugly looking games?
10. Arizona Cardinals (10-5, LW: 11)
It's probably time for defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to get a shot as a head coach. That defense is really good. Too bad it probably won't be in the playoffs.
9. Philadelphia Eagles (9-6, LW: 9)
Eagles-Saints would be absolutely incredible for a first-round playoff game. That's the scenario if the 49ers, Seahawks, Panthers and Eagles win on Sunday.
8. Kansas City Chiefs (11-4, LW: 7)
I think the coaching staff played it very close to the vest knowing that a return trip to Indianapolis in the playoffs is likely. Still though, it wasn't the best look for a team whose resume is incredibly short on impressive wins.
I know the "Andy Dalton stinks!" narrative has been set in stone, but it's worth mentioning he has 78 career touchdowns, and 4,015 yards and 31 touchdowns this season. But never mind that. He stinks. Of course.
6. New Orleans Saints (10-5, LW: 6)
Result aside, it was a great effort by the Saints at Carolina. They were a minute away from winning a tough, rainy, outside game on the road against a really good team. They can win a game or two on the road in January if they replicate that.
5. San Francisco 49ers (11-4, LW: 5)
If they play the NFC North champ in round one, we might see a road team in the playoffs favored by more than a touchdown.
4. New England Patriots (11-4, LW: 4)
They demolished the Ravens despite a lot of good players being out with injury. The coach-quarterback combination is so strong that nobody would be surprised if they won the Super Bowl.
3. Carolina Panthers (11-4, LW: 3)
The defense played great. The offense will need to do a heck of a lot better, and that won't be easy if Steve Smith is less than 100 percent by the playoffs. But still, a great win over the Saints.
2. Denver Broncos (12-3, LW: 2)
The Von Miller injury is not good. He's the one guy on their defense who could take over a game. Maybe they won't need that in the playoffs, but losing Miller adds to the degree of difficulty.
1. Seattle Seahawks (12-3, LW: 1)
Keep the big picture in mind. They're the best team in football and one loss to a motivated Arizona team doesn't change that. A loss next week and maybe there's a reason to move them down.
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