The top three teams on our latest list of the NFL's hottest and most powerful squads are quarterbacked by men who have a combined five Super Bowl titles and eight Super Bowl appearances. Beyond that, seven of the next nine teams have starting quarterbacks that have never won a playoff game. Five have never even been to the postseason, period. That might be what separates New England, Denver and Green Bay from the pack this year. With teams like the Giants, Saints and Steelers done or as good as done, only three superstar veteran quarterbacks remain in this race.
1. New England Patriots (11-4, 2nd last week): Two so-so efforts in as many weeks but I still believe that this is a better overall team than the one that went to the Super Bowl a year ago.
2. Denver Broncos (12-3, 3rd last week): Both New England and Denver are mowing teams down right now, but I'm sticking with the Patriots because they beat the Broncos head-to-head.
3. Green Bay Packers (11-4, 4th last week): Aside from a blip on the radar against the Giants, they've been perfect since mid-October.
4. San Francisco 49ers (10-4-1, 1st last week): Can they beat the Packers in Green Bay twice in one year? They might have to....
5. Seattle Seahawks (10-5, 8th last week): Still think the Niners beat the Seahawks at home if they face each other in January. Close call though.
6. Atlanta Falcons (13-2, 6th last week): Crazy league, this is. The team with the NFL's best record has dropped to sixth on this list of most powerful NFL teams.
7. Washington Redskins (9-6, 7th last week): It's going to be very hard for them to make a run with that defense and those injuries, but they won't go down without a fight.
8. Cincinnati Bengals (9-6, 9th last week): The NFC North's best team is grinding out victories week after week. Love this defense. They'll enter 2013 as the division favorite.
9. Baltimore Ravens (10-5, 13th last week): Dominant, season-saving performance against the Giants.
10. Minnesota Vikings (9-6, 10th last week): If you can easily defeat the AFC's top-seeded team without Adrian Peterson running wild, you're doing something right.
11. Houston Texans (12-3, 5th last week): You know how they say it's important to peak at the right now? The Texans are definitely not doing that.
12. Indianapolis Colts (10-5, 12th last week): They still have to beat a quality team to prove that they're for real. They have a big opportunity this week in Houston.
13. Dallas Cowboys (8-7, 11th last week): Starting to wonder if the defense is just too banged up. Can they slow down the streaking 'Skins to get back to the playoffs?
14. St. Louis Rams (6-8-1, 15th last week): Can finish the season unbeaten against their own division with a win in Seattle, but who are we kidding?
15. Carolina Panthers (6-9, 18th last week): They've won three straight by double-digit margins. Sign of things to come in 2013 or another late-season mirage?
16. Chicago Bears (9-6, 19th last week): They'll beat Detroit and should sneak into the playoffs, but the banged-up Bears are the definition of one-and-done.
17. New Orleans Saints (7-8, 20th last week): The offense has come alive the last two weeks. Too little, too late.
18. New York Giants (8-7, 14th last week): Still a shot at the playoffs, but they've been outscored 77-14 in two games. This team just doesn't have what it takes to win back-to-back Super Bowls.
19. Cleveland Browns (5-10, 16th last week): Would really like to see them send a message in Pittsburgh in Week 17.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8, 17th last week): They might finish below .500 for the first time in the Ben Roethlisberger era. Time for big changes in Pittsburgh.
21. Miami Dolphins (7-8, 21st last week): You don't gain power ranking points for beating the Bills at home.
22. Detroit Lions (4-11, 22nd last week): With Calvin Johnson shooting for 2,000 yards and the Bears banged up, I've got a feeling they'll play spoiler in their home finale.
23. New York Jets (6-9, 24th last week): The best part of this whole thing is that they're inevitably screwed in 2013, too.
24. Oakland Raiders (4-11, 25th last week): Only one of their wins has come against a team that isn't ranked 31st or 32nd on this list.
25. San Diego Chargers (6-9, 27th last week): If you bet on this weekend's Oakland-San Diego game, you might have a problem.
26. Philadelphia Eagles (4-11, 29th last week): At least three of their last four losses have come by a single score.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-9, 26th last week): What happened here? I truly can't put my finger on how or why the Bucs have lost five straight after winning four straight.
28. Tennessee Titans (5-10, 23rd last week): What's up with all these teams giving up 50-plus points lately? Are Tennessee, Buffalo and Arizona even trying anymore?
29. Buffalo Bills (5-10, 30th last week): See Tennessee Titans.
30. Arizona Cardinals (5-10, 28th last week): See Buffalo Bills.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-13, 31st last week): I'm so happy I don't have to think of anything to write about Jacksonville beyond this week.
32. Kansas City Chiefs (2-13, 32nd last week): One loss from "winning" the top pick in the 2013 NFL draft.