The NFL plays a 16-game season, and each game is important.
The most recent game does not outweigh every other one, although it seems that way at times. So let's try to figure out the Denver Broncos, and where they should rank this week.
Denver, last week's No. 1 team, lost on Sunday night. The Broncos lost on the road to New England, one of the top teams in football, on a horribly unlucky play in overtime. They blew a 24-point lead in the second half. They also built up a 24-point lead in the first half. Also, they were playing in extreme weather conditions (though, that could happen a few more times before they're done). They were also seven days removed from easily beating a 9-0 Chiefs team. That counts too, and it's not like they turned into a pumpkin overnight.
They aren't No. 1 again this week, but I can't justify moving them down that far. The whole picture is that the Broncos have been a very good team, albeit against a less-than-stellar schedule, and I'd still pick them to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. I wonder how good Peyton Manning will be if Denver faces a cold weather game in January, but it's not fair to rank them based on the possibility of bad weather in future weeks.
The first half against the Patriots showed how good the defense can be, now that Von Miller is all the way back. The second half was ugly, and that is a very unpredictable unit. But the offense can cover up a lot of issues.
Every team has its faults this season (seriously, there's a lot of ugliness among the bottom two-thirds of the league), and the Broncos have their share. But there's no need for panic after an unlucky play in overtime. I still think they'll be fine. As long as the weather isn't too bad.
Here are this week's power rankings:
32. Houston Texans (2-9, LW: 28)
They've earned this spot. What a terrible team. But, can you imagine them with Teddy Bridgewater next year? Still a lot of talent on the roster.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9, Last week: 32)
They'll feel sick about Sunday's win if they have to take their second choice at quarterback after Houston takes their preferred pick.
30. Atlanta Falcons (2-9, LW: 30)
They played really hard against the Saints at home and it still wasn't good enough. So now what?
29. Washington Redskins (3-8, LW: 27)
There's literally not one positive for this team to take into the offseason.
28. Minnesota Vikings (2-8-1, LW: 31)
Rookie Cordarrelle Patterson had his career highs in catches (eight) and yards (54) on Sunday. Maybe he can get on a nice roll headed into the offseason.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-8, LW: 29)
I truly wonder what the players think about reports that coach Greg Schiano might be saving his job through this latest winning streak.
26. New York Giants (4-7, LW: 24)
Yeah, they're not good.
25. Oakland Raiders (4-7, LW: 25)
Every game from here on out has to get them closer to a clear answer at quarterback. Their first-round pick decision will be fascinating.
24. Buffalo Bills (4-7, LW: 21)
With their schedule, I'm still not ruling out the Bills being 8-7 going into the finale hoping the Patriots have their seed locked up.
23. Cleveland Browns (4-7, LW: 19)
Receiver Josh Gordon has five games of 125 yards or more, including 237 yards on Sunday. The Browns need to pray he stays focused. He could be great if he does.
22. St. Louis Rams (5-6, LW: 23)
Tavon Austin went 65 yards for a score on his first touch. He got two more touches. It's OK to give him the ball more, Rams.
21. New York Jets (5-6, LW: 13)
If, at any point this season, the Jets bench a healthy Geno Smith going into a game, they've lost their minds. Big picture, folks.
20. Baltimore Ravens (5-6, LW: 22)
They still can't run the ball, but at least they got a few explosive plays in the passing game. The defense can keep them in games.
19. Green Bay Packers (5-5-1, LW: 18)
Green Bay fans cheered when Matt Flynn entered Sunday's game. If that doesn't sum up the Packers' woes, nothing will.
18. Tennessee Titans (5-6, LW: 26)
Big time game-winning drive by Ryan Fitzpatrick at Oakland. There's a lot to like about them, if Fitzpatrick can keep playing at that level.
17. Miami Dolphins (5-6, LW: 15)
Disheartening to play that well against a very good Panthers team just to lose. But the fact is, they can't run the ball a lick. Makes it hard.
16. Dallas Cowboys (6-5, LW: 17)
Tony Romo is carrying this team. They wouldn't be in the playoff race without him, that's clear.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-6, LW: 20)
It would be a great story if the 0-4 Steelers made the playoffs. And that can't be counted out after a 5-2 run following that bad start.
14. San Diego Chargers (5-6, LW: 16)
This is a pretty good team, and San Diego has four home games left. They probably become a favorite for the sixth seed with a win over the Bengals on Sunday.
13. Chicago Bears (6-5, LW: 11)
The Lions are trying to give them the division. On Sunday, they just refused to take it.
12. Indianapolis Colts (7-4, LW: 7)
Just, wow. I guess they've shown the ability to beat good teams, so who knows what happens in January. But those wins seems like a very long time ago.
11. Detroit Lions (6-5, LW: 10)
Terrible loss on Sunday, one of the worst in the NFL this season considering all the implications. Maybe they're just not that good.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (6-5, LW: 14)
The odds of Eagles at Cowboys in Week 17 behind flexed to Sunday night are off the board. It's too obvious.
9. Arizona Cardinals (7-4, LW: 12)
An unbelievable performance against a good (I guess?) Colts team. The remaining schedule is brutal, but they're legitimately good.
8. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4, LW: 9)
The Patriots-Bengals race for the No. 2 seed is huge. The Patriots have a one-game lead, but the Bengals have the tiebreaker.
7. Kansas City Chiefs (9-2, LW: 5)
A last-minute loss to a tough team while dealing with some serious injuries on both lines isn't the worst thing. A win this week makes up for it and then some.
6. San Francisco 49ers (7-4, LW: 8)
A hard team to gauge, because they feast off bad teams. But there's something to be said about never letting those bad teams keep it interesting.
5. New England Patriots (8-3, LW: 6)
The arrow is pointing up, even with the defensive injuries. This could be a few spots too low. Nobody will want to play them in January, obviously.
4. Carolina Panthers (8-3, LW: 4)
Sunday's win won't get the credit it deserves. They somehow pulled off a road win against a solid Dolphins team in an obvious letdown spot. That showed toughness, which will pay off down the road.
3. New Orleans Saints (9-2, LW: 3)
Feel like the Saints wouldn't fare much better than Denver did on Sunday if the temperature was 22 degrees with a strong wind.
2. Denver Broncos (9-2, LW: 1)
They're here for now, but a loss to the Chiefs would change things. And that could easily happen.
1. Seattle Seahawks (10-1, LW: 2)
The cornerback situation is a bit troubling after Brandon Browner's suspension. But make no mistake, this is your clear No. 1 team.
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