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WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 14: Patriots jump to No. 3

The dominance continues. Seattle’s reign atop the WEEI NFL Power Rankings has reached its seventh straight week. The Seahawks [1] look like a lock to play in New Jersey in Super Bowl [2] XLVIII.

The Panthers (2), Patriots (3) and Broncos [3] (4) all inch one spot closer while the Saints drop out of the top five after being absolutely dismantled in Seattle. New Orleans won’t have much time to think about the loss because the red-hot Panthers are next on the schedule in a battle for the NFC South.

As the regular season draws closer to an end, we’ll see more teams officially eliminated from the playoffs. It looks like at least five playoff teams from 2012 won’t make a return trip in 2013. The Packers [4] (20), Vikings (27), Redskins (28, already eliminated) Falcons (29) and Texans (32) have not lived up to expectations.

1. (1) Seahawks (11-1) — Good luck to any NFC team that has to go through Seattle to reach the Super Bowl. Russell Wilson hasn’t lost at CenturyLink Field and is 22-6 since becoming the starting QB last year.

2. (3) Panthers (9-3) — Owners of eight straight wins, the Panthers and their highly ranked defense will take on the Saints on Sunday night.

3. (4) Patriots (9-3) — As usual, the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady-led Patriots get stronger and better as the season shifts to November and December. They are one win and one Miami loss away from wrapping up their 11th division title in 13 seasons.

4. (5) Broncos (10-2) — The road to the Super Bowl in the AFC will go through Denver. The Broncos’ remaining opponents have a combined 16-32 record. None of the four teams they will face have a record over .500. 

5. (6) 49ers [5] (8-4) — The injuries on the offensive line combined with the inconsistency of the run game over the past two weeks are a concern heading into Sunday’s game against the Seahawks.

6. (2) Saints (9-3) — Clearly the Saints are a different team when playing in a dome or a warmer climate. Now that they’ll almost certainly have to leave the friendly confines of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to reach the Super Bowl, I don’t like their chances.

7. (9) Bengals (8-4) — The tandem of BenJarvus Green-Ellis [6] and Giovani Bernard averaged 4.4 yards per carry Sunday. When the Bengals can run the ball, the offense is extremely effective.

8. (8) Chiefs (9-3) —  The Chiefs have committed 25 penalties and turned over the ball four times during their current three-game losing streak.

9. (10) Colts (8-4) — Andrew Luck [7] and the Colts are poised for a division title, but it’s tough to see this team going deep in the playoffs with the offense struggling the way it is. A combination of poor pass protection, a shaky run game and unproductive receivers has slowed Indy down. 

10. (11) Cowboys (7-5) — December has arrived, and we know Tony Romo [8] is no Tom Brady [9] when it comes to the last month of the year. The Cowboys QB is a career 11-15 in December. [10]

11. (12) Eagles (7-5) — Nick Foles continues to play at a high level regardless of the opponent. He passed his latest and most difficult test of the year with flying colors. The second-year passer has a 125.2 quarterback rating. 

12. (7) Cardinals (7-5) — The offensive line must improve if this team is going to make the playoffs. Carson Palmer [11] needs better protection.

13. (14) Ravens (6-6) — The defending champs currently are the sixth and final seed in the AFC playoff picture. Joe Flacco [12] and the Ravens offense have to do a better job getting into the end zone. They relied on five Justin Tucker field goals to win Thursday night.

14. (20) Lions (7-5) — Bill Clinton was president, Tom Brady was 16 years old, and gas was just $1.16 per gallon the last time the Lions won a division title. The NFC North is in their grasp. Let’s see if they can close the deal. 

15. (19) Dolphins (6-6) — Miami’s defense annihilated the Jets offense. Geno Smith and Matt Simms looked like boys playing against men. The Jets scored just three points and were 2-12 on third down.

16. (13) Bears (6-6) — I’m still trying to figure out why Marc Trestman didn’t at least try to gain a few more yards with Matt Forte. The running back was having a great game, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. Trestman said he was concerned about a penalty or a turnover. If you can’t trust your players in that situation, they might as well cancel the rest of the season.

17. (15) Rams (5-7) — The Rams are one of the most promising non-playoff teams. The roster is filled with young talent that continues to improve. 

18. (16) Chargers (5-7) — Usually you can’t blame Antonio Gates [13] and Philip Rivers [14], but this past Sunday the two veterans were at fault. Gates fumbled twice while Rivers threw a pick.

 19. (18) Steelers (5-7) — Has it gotten that bad in Pittsburgh that Mike Tomlin [15] has to pull stunts like that? The coach should be on the hot seat. This team is on its way to missing the postseason for a second straight year and only has won two playoffs games since 2009. That doesn’t live up to Steelers standards. 

20. (17) Packers (5-6-1) — The Packers haven’t won a game since losing Aaron Rodgers [16] to injury, and the organization is said to be discussing shutting down the star QB for the season.

21. (22) Giants [17] (5-7) — A lot of things have gone wrong in New York this year. However, if the Giants can upgrade their offensive line in the offseason they can get back to being legitimate contenders in the NFC East.

22. (21) Jets (5-7) — Some might say the Jets have exceeded expectations with a five-win season, but if you take a deeper look, this team is worse than what its record indicates. Rex Ryan [18]‘s club has a minus-121 point differential. That’s second worst in the league (the Jaguars are a minus-178).

23. (23) Titans (5-7) — The Titans had four turnovers Sunday, and Ryan Fitzpatrick [19] was responsible for all of them.

24. (24) Bills (4-8) — Two turnovers in the final minutes of the game. These are the types of fixable mistakes this team continues to make time and time again.

25. (25) Buccaneers [20] (3-9) — You can fire up that hot seat once again for Greg Schiano. The Bucs are going to have a difficult decision to make at the end of the year.

 26. (27) Raiders (4-8) —   The last time the Raiders finished a season with a winning record was 2002. This dysfunctional franchise has been stuck in neutral for years and is showing no signs of moving forward.

27. (28) Vikings (3-8-1) — Adrian Peterson [21] has been in the league since 2007 and already has rushed for over 10,000 yards. Unfortunately for the Vikings, they haven’t had the talent around him to get the next level. Minnesota has reached the playoffs just three times in Peterson’s seven years.

28. (29) Redskins (3-9) — It’s hard to understand why Alfred Morris doesn’t play a bigger role in the offense. The second-year running back had just 11 carries in Sunday night’s loss.

29. (30) Falcons (3-9) — The Falcons can get back to where they were a year ago if their skill players get healthy and they address the running back situation in the offseason. This team thrives when it has a capable runner in the backfield to balance the offense.

30. (31) Jaguars (3-9) — You don’t usually associate the Jaguars with having a winning record since November or coming from behind late in the fourth quarter, but that has been the case in 2013.

31. (26) Browns (4-8) — Josh Gordon has emerged as one of the best young wide receivers in the game. Other than that, there is not much to be positive about in Cleveland.

32. (32) Texans (2-10) — Mut and Merloni actually picked this team at the beginning of the year to reach the Super Bowl. At least they were close.

Which NFL teams are in your top 10? Leave your opinions/comments below or send via Twitter to @JoeZWEEI.