NFL Power Rankings Week 16: Broncos burst into the top-2

USA TODAY Sports

The Niners may still reign supreme but the Broncos are now the finest the AFC has to offer after they extended their NFL-best win streak to nine Sunday.

1. San Francisco 49ers (10-3-1) - Eight times out of ten, Tom Brady and the Patriots will handle San Francisco. But when the Niners play to their full potential as they did Sunday, they can beat any team on the planet. I just still have my doubts that they'll get that close to flawless ever again. Previous Ranking: 1

2. Denver Broncos (11-3) - The Broncos better send the team above them an Edible Arrangement or something. With the 49ers topping the Pats, Denver is now in the driver's seat for the two-seed as they only have matchups against Cleveland and Kansas City remaining. Getting a week off and staying in Denver sounds a lot sweeter than traveling to Gillette in the middle of January. Previous Ranking: 3

3. Atlanta Falcons (12-2) - Now that's what I call a rebound game. It might not make up for the playoff slaughtering last year but it did send a pretty clear message to the rest of the NFC. This team is a force to be reckoned with at home. Previous Ranking: 5

4. Houston Texans (12-2) - Jonathan Joseph should be shadowing the opposition's No. 1 receiver on a weekly basis. He absolutely shutdown Reggie Wayne (three catches, 14 yards) and made Andrew Luck (13-of-27, 186 yards, two touchdowns) look silly in the process. Seems like a pretty simple solution to Houston's secondary concerns. Previous Ranking: 4

5. New England Patriots (10-4) - It's a shame I'm forced to drop New England after their valiant comeback but that's what happens when four of the NFL's top-5 teams have exceptional performances against playoff teams. It's even more of a shame that the Jaguars will be relegated to the Arena Football League after the Patriots take their frustrations out on them next Sunday. Previous Ranking: 2

6. Green Bay Packers (10-4) - Clay Matthews is the difference maker for this team. He lifts the entire defense which allows Aaron Rodgers to do his thing without the world on his shoulders. If he can stay healthy, I'd hate to bump into this team in the playoffs. Previous Ranking: 6

7. Seattle Seahawks (9-5) - Has a third round pick ever done more for his team in his rookie year than Russell Wilson has done for the Seahawks? Throw a name out there and I'll give you 108 reasons why the former Badger is better. Previous Ranking: 8

8. Washington Redskins (8-6) - Doesn't matter who this team puts under center, the Skins are simply rolling. Robert Griffin? So money. Kirk Cousins? A quiet killer. Rex Grossman? Well...let's not get carried away... Previous Ranking: 12

9. Baltimore Ravens (9-5) - Jim Caldwell's first change as Baltimore's new offensive coordinator? Make sure Ray Rice doesn't get a carry or target on third down. Makes sense. Previous Ranking: 7

10. Indianapolis Colts (9-5) - Is it just me, or do the Colts seem to lack that killer instinct? Hard to fault them though considering that no one on the planet even had them in this position in the first place. Previous Ranking: 10

11. New York Giants (8-6) - I'm fairly certain RGIII and the Skins pulled a Dr. Evil and stole the Giants late season mojo. I don't doubt they'll still get in but there long term outlook is looking bleak. Previous Ranking: 9

12. Minnesota Vikings (8-6) - Obligatory Adrian Peterson praise: could you imagine how many rushing yards AP would have if he had a quarterback that didn't cordially invite opposing defenses to put 10 men in the box? Previous Ranking: 13

13. Dallas Cowboys (8-6) - I think Cowboy fans can agree that Brandon Carr was worth every penny after his game-clinching interception in overtime this past Sunday. Previous Ranking: 14

14. Cincinnati Bengals (8-6) - Andy Dalton is going have to be a little more confident pulling the trigger if the artists formally known as the Bungles are to earn the victory in the Steel City this weekend. Previous Ranking: 15

15. Chicago Bears (8-6) - The Bears have dropped five of their last six following their smoldering hot 7-1 start and are now on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs. However, I'm sure they'll find the cure for whatever is ailing them in Arizona and Detroit. Previous Ranking: 11

16. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7) - While I do feel that the Steelers should be knocked down a couple notches after blowing a golden opportunity Sunday, there aren't any teams below them that deserve a boost. And at the end of the day, I still see them being the last wild card in the AFC. Previous Ranking: 16

17. New Orleans Saints (6-8) - If you were wise enough to start the Saints fantasy defense this past weekend in your semifinals matchup, then please give me your phone number because you're a prophet among men. Previous Ranking: 19

18. St. Louis Rams (6-7-1) - So much for that whole playoff thing, eh? I think the only reason that most people considered the Rams' 2012 run defense to be above average was because they had never met Adrian Peterson before. Previous Ranking: 17

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-8) - So much for that whole playoff thing, eh? Is there an echo in here? Previous Ranking: 18

20. Miami Dolphins (6-8) - The Dolphins are the kings of AFC football in Florida!...which is kind of like being the best quarterback on the Jets' roster. Previous Ranking: 21

21. Carolina Panthers (5-9) - Cam Newton got his act together just in time to make sure his rebuilding franchise doesn't secure a top-10. Hope the pride you played for is worth it! Previous Ranking: 27

22. Tennessee Titans (5-9) - The Titans have an extremely flawed roster at their core but I had to put them above this next team after the hysterically tragic events of Monday evening. Previous Ranking: 28

23. New York Jets (6-8) - A friend of mine told me yesterday that USC quarterbacks should stop trying to go pro and take up underwear modeling already. Snowballing off that idea, I say we force Mark Sanchez to play his next game in his tighty-whiteys after be treated America to the worst Monday Night Football game since the Steelers and Dolphins mud-wrestled for 60 minutes back in 2007. Previous Ranking: 20

24. San Diego Chargers (6-8) - I heard a Charger fan Sunday call San Diego's 31-7 loss to the Panthers the worst loss in franchise history. Frankly, I was just left wondering if he was in a coma for the rest of the Norv Turner era. Previous Ranking: 22

25. Cleveland Browns (5-9) - Captain Kirk made Cleveland's defense look foolish Sunday. I realize they probably game-planned for RGIII but with all the experience they get against Andy Dalton and Joe Flacco, you'd think they wouldn't have a hard time adjusting to an average pocket passer. Previous Ranking: 23

26. Buffalo Bills (5-9) - The Bills have given up a combined total of 147 points to the Pats, Niners and Seahawks in three games this season. Just for some perspective, the Niners and Seahawks have individually given up only 23 more points than that throughout the entire 2012 season. Previous Ranking: 25

27. Arizona Cardinals (5-9) - Props to the fans who continue to help the Cardinals sellout despite the fact that I'm pretty sure Sunday's win was their first since Clinton was in office. Little piece of friendly advice though: you might want to make other plans next weekend with Bears in town. Previous Ranking: 32

28. Oakland Raiders (4-10) - After Sebastian Janikowski stroked five field goals for the Raiders only offense Sunday, I felt that this clip was appropriate. Previous Ranking: 29

29. Detroit Lions (4-10) - I wonder which number is higher: the amount of different arm angles Matthew Stafford has passed with this season or the amount of pick-sixes he's thrown. Previous Ranking: 24

30. Philadelphia Eagles (4-10) - I can't remember a player in recent history who has struggled with fumbles as much as Bryce Brown. Shame too because the kid plays like a franchise running back. Maybe LeSean McCoy can teach him a thing or two about ball handling when he returns if his head isn't too fuzzy. Previous Ranking: 26

31. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12) - Remember that thing I said a few weeks ago about Chad Henne deserving an chance next year? Yeah, forget that. The Jaguars need someone who isn't battling to complete 50% of his passes on a weekly basis. Previous Ranking: 30

32. Kansas City Chiefs (2-12) - In all the years the Chiefs and Raiders have been playing, Oakland had only pitched one shut out entering Sunday. Leave it to Brady Quinn to make it two. Previous Ranking: 31

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