<:article data-aop=”article” itemtype=”http://schema.org/NewsArticle” itemscope><:section data-aop=”articlebody” itemprop=”articleBody”>It’s back to “how convenient” time in this week’s NFL power rankings. Just like the league drew it up, right, to have a BCS/CFP-like feel with the Week 13 schedule? This week’s top team plays at the second team’s home on Sunday. Based on that, pay attention, because it just might be a preview of what we’ll see again in Super Bowl XLIX:
1 New England Patriots (9-2)
Last week: 1
Why they’re here: LeGarrette Blount returning and scoring twice is pretty much what you would expect from the Patriot way. Bill Belichick knows he can pretty much interchange players everywhere, expect for quarterback and cornerback.
What’s next: at Green Bay, where Tom Brady duels Aaron Rodgers for the first time.
2 Green Bay Packers (8-3)
Last week: 3
Why they’re here: Jordy Nelson and their downfield passing game isn’t as invincible away from Green Bay, but they found they can deliver with Eddie Lacy and the power running game when they need it: see Minnesota.
What’s next: vs. New England, when they will need all their Lambeau mojo.
3 Denver Broncos (8-3)
Last week: 4
Why they’re here: C.J. Anderson is the latest feature back to step through their injury-riddled revolving door, and they needed every last rushing yard from him to escape with a victory against Miami. They need to play much better defense, stat.
What’s next: at Kansas City, a Sunday night battle for best in the West.
4 Arizona Cardinals (9-2)
Last week: 2
Why they’re here: Andre Ellington and the running game have done nothing of late, and it had their entire offense running into a wall in their most important game of the season in Seattle. This is a lingering concern for their playoff-win hopes.
What’s next: at Atlanta, good avian matchup Ellington.
5 Philadelphia Eagles (8-3)
Last week: 7
Why they’re here: LeSean McCoy is starting to look like the real Shady, and it helps when you face some bad run defenses such as Tennessee’s. They are revving up their scoring pace just in time for that Cowboys shootout.
What’s next: at Dallas, which should make for a Thanksgiving offensive feast.
6 Dallas Cowboys (8-3)
Last week: 8
Why they’re here: Dez Bryant made sure the Giants paid for not covering him well (or at all, really). Tony Romo led the rally to keep his team from falling into a classic trap game. Now it’s all about finishing against their top NFC East competition.
What’s next: vs. Philadelphia, a game that cost them the division last season.
7 Indianapolis Colts (7-4)
Last week: 9
Why they’re here: Andrew Luck is having a bit of a November slump as the points haven’t come easily the past two weeks while he’s been under pressure and without two key bail-out targets, Dwayne Allen and Ahmad Bradshaw. Still, the AFC South is easily theirs again.
What’s next: vs. Washington, Luck vs. the Year 3 QB he’s lapped, RGIII.
8 Cincinnati Bengals (7-3-1)
Last week: 11
Why they’re here: Andy Dalton will always have his critics until he wins a few playoff games. But he’s come through twice after his worst-ever game to still have them in first place with no breathing room from the three teams behind them.
What’s next: at Tampa Bay, where they will try to stay road sizzling.
9 Seattle Seahawks (7-4)
Last week: 12
Why they’re here: Bobby Wagner came back against Arizona, and made his impact felt by roaming all the over the field to stuff everything. He’s not just a top middle linebacker; he’s the heart of their defense, a key to staying playoff-bound.
What’s next: at San Francisco, where there will be a lot of jive turkey talk.
10 San Francisco 49ers (7-4)
Last week: 10
Why they’re here: Where would the Niners be without Anquan Boldin? Their offense has had a lot of dysfunction, but he has saved the day often with his gritty, clutch play. He’s the guy doing his best to reward all the great work the defense keeps doing.
What’s next: vs. Seattle, not exactly a Thanksgiving family affair.
11 Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4)
Last week: 13
Why they’re here: Ben Roethlisberger had a chance to shake off soreness with a bye, and just like every team in the loaded AFC North, the Steelers are in control of everything. They’re the only team in the division with a three-time Super Bowl QB.
What’s next: vs. New Orleans, when it’s Big Ben vs. Cool Brees.
12 Baltimore Ravens (6-5)
Last week: 14
Why they’re here: Steve Smith Sr. played a big part in their sweep of the lowly NFC South, his former division. They are just 3-4 otherwise, however, and their schedule has no more breaks. Being swept by the Bengals and splitting with the Steelers hasn’t helped.
What’s next: vs. San Diego, a home game with huge wild-card implications.
13 Kansas City Chiefs (7-4)
Last week: 5
Why they’re here: Will somebody make a big play for Alex Smith? At this point, tight end Travis Kelce is the only real concerning cover for opponents. Jamaal Charles does a lot to help Kansas City win, but sometimes, his dazzle is far from enough.
What’s next: vs. Denver, a rematch they really need now.
14 Detroit Lions (7-4)
Last week: 6
Why they’re here: Matthew Stafford is struggling again in an offense built to avoid that. The problem is, the supporting cast isn’t as good as it looks on paper. Weird to say, but they might not have enough passing pop to get back in the playoff mix.
What’s next: vs. Chicago, when Stafford duels mirror image Jay Cutler on Thanksgiving.
15 San Diego Chargers (7-4)
Last week: 16
Why they’re here: Marcus Gilchrist saved their playoff hopes with that interception against the Rams, but that was a temporary reprieve as the remaining schedule keeps raising the degree of difficulty. They need a red-hot Philip Rivers again.
What’s next: at Baltimore, a daunting cross-country trip with much on the line.
16 Miami Dolphins (6-5)
Last week: 15
Why they’re here: Ryan Tannehill was up to the task of dueling Peyton Manning, but their defense just ran out of gas in a tough matchup in Denver. They put up a lot of points, but they still slid down from the pack of AFC wild-card hopefuls
What’s next: at New York Jets, a Monday night game they must win.
17 Cleveland Browns (7-4)
Last week: 18
Why they’re here: Isaiah Crowell proved why Ben Tate was expendable, and Crowell’s production plus the triumphant return of Josh Gordon helped Brian Hoyer overcome a roller-coaster game in Atlanta. They’re still fourth best in the AFC North, however.
What’s next: at Buffalo, in a battle for Lake Erie.
18 Houston Texans (5-6)
Last week: 17
Why they’re here: Ryan Mallett’s run was fun while it lasted. It’s back to that other Ryan, Fitzpatrick, whom they replaced because they didn’t think they could get to the playoff with him. That’s still the case after falling under .500 in a top-heavy AFC.
What’s next: vs. Tennessee, hosting those old Houston Oilers again.
19 Buffalo Bills (6-5)
Last week: 22
Why they’re here: Doug Marrone did an amazing coaching job in Week 12. His displaced team was thrown off in practice all week, but it still produced one of the Bills’ greatest results in a long time. Playoffs are a long shot, but he’s a keeper.
What’s next: vs. Cleveland, when they hope to be lake effect-free.
20 New Orleans Saints (5-6)
Last week: 20
Why they’re here: Drew Brees will be the first to tell you he’s had a disappointing season, as that pick-six against Baltimore changed the game and led to a shocking third straight home loss. Still, there’s no need to panic because they remain with an easy road to the playoffs.
What’s next: at Pittsburgh, where a break from the Superdome might actually help.
21 Atlanta Falcons (4-7)
Last week: 19
Why they’re here: Julio Jones found the end zone again, but the Falcons found another way to lose in a game in the final minute. The heat keeps going on and off Mike Smith, who still somehow has a first-place team.
What’s next: vs. Arizona, when they can’t afford another heartbreaking loss.
22 St. Louis Rams (4-7)
Last week: 21
Why they’re here: Tavon Austin gave their offense a little spark in San Diego, as they have decided to go with more speed and quickness with him and dynamic rookie back Tre Mason touching the ball more. Unfortunately, neither can play QB.
What’s next: vs. Oakland, in a battle for Los Angeles.
23 Chicago Bears (5-6)
Last week: 24
Why they’re here: Matt Forte is their only way offensively to get into the playoffs. He just does everything right, even when Jay Cutler seems to keep doing everything wrong. They’re still a bit scary, because everyone in the NFC knows they can score and get hot in a hurry.
What’s next: at Detroit, a winnable game they must steal to keep hope alive.
24 Minnesota Vikings (4-7)
Last week: 25
Why they’re here: Greg Jennings, Charles Johnson and Kyle Rudolph are the support system Teddy Bridgewater needs to finish his rookie season on a high and give them great confidence they can be a true NFC wild-card contender in 2015.
What’s next: vs. Carolina, when they will have revenge on their mind.
25 Carolina Panthers (3-7-1)
Last week: 23
Why they’re here: As much praise as Cam Newton and Ron Rivera got for being worthy leaders of this team last season, they are getting the same kind of criticism this year. The truth is, the lack of talent deck has been stacked against both of them.
What’s next: at Minnesota, that other team named for a state.
26 New York Giants (3-8)
Last week: 26
Why they’re here: Odell Beckham Jr., you are ridiculous. But quick, name someone else who’s giving the Giants’ passing offense a post-Victor Cruz lift at the moment. Nope. You can’t. Not even Eli Manning, who’s looked better in a bad year because of OBJ.
What’s next: at Jacksonville, where Tom Coughlin and Rashad Jennings used to be.
27 Washington Redskins (3-8)
Last week: 27
Why they’re here: So Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins didn’t work. Colt McCoy did the best he could. As they have exhausted all three options, they might as well give Pierre Garcon a chance. Heck, he was their finest-looking passer in San Francisco.
What’s next: at Indianapolis, where they will see a real 2012 first-round QB.
28 New York Jets (2-9)
Last week: 28
Why they’re here: Rex Ryan is getting support from his players to keep his job. But maybe Ryan shouldn’t want to coach a team where players don’t show that on the field and he lacks a front office that makes his job easier.
What’s next: vs. Miami, making it back-to-back Monday night games.
29 Tennessee Titans (2-9)
Last week: 29
Why they’re here: Zach Mettenberger can fling it. Once he can harness that arm and throw in some accuracy and decision-making, the Titans are on to something. It’s clear that Jake Locker was a bust; Mettenberger might end up as a real steal.
What’s next: at Houston, making it a Texans two-step for 2014.
30 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-9)
Last week: 30
Why they’re here: Doug Martin returned from his ankle injury with a thud. No matter what Josh McCown does in getting the ball to Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson, there’s just too much pressure on an older QB in a one-dimensional attack.
What’s next: vs. Cincinnati, when Lovie meets Marvin.
31 Jacksonville Jaguars (1-10)
Last week: 31
Why they’re here: Chris Clemons had three sacks to remind us of their brightest spot in a terrible season: The pass rush. It’s deep and Seattle-like, not a surprise under Gus Bradley. Now the Jaguars need to work on getting the rest down.
What’s next: vs. New York Giants, when they get to go after Eli.
32 Oakland Raiders (1-10)
Last week: 32
Why they’re here: Derek Carr drove them downfield and delivered that game-winner vs. Kansas City. They’ll need another victory, however, to rise out of the league basement this season.
What’s next: at St. Louis, a Relocation Bowl