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Top five unchanged, including No. 1 Packers, but Chargers and Washington among teams on rise

NFL power rankings entering Week 14 of the 2021 season (previous rank in parentheses):

1. Packers (1): QB Aaron Rodgers’ mangled toe got some rest, and Pro Bowlers David Bakhtiari, Za’Darius Smith and Jaire Alexander are all primed to return soon. That type of late-season boost – combined with the NFC’s easiest remaining schedule (.408 combined opponent winning percentage) – might actually enable the Pack to break away from the NFC’s … pack.

2. Buccaneers (2): WR Chris Godwin doesn’t get nearly as much pub as some of his more recognizable teammates, but his club-record 15 catches Sunday are indicative of what he means to NFC South leaders.

3. Cardinals (3): Arizona was a combined 5-11 in the second half of its first two seasons under coach Kliff Kingsbury. The Cards are 2-1 since Week 9 this year.

4. Patriots (4): With three throws in victory Monday night, rookie QB Mac Jones became the ultimate game manager! Enjoy a week at the beach, Mac, and a nice domed stadium (Indianapolis) after your break.

5. Chiefs (5): Coach Andy Reid is now 20-3 following bye weeks in the regular season – all the more reason for Kansas City to continue its surge toward what could be its fourth consecutive postseason initiated with a week off.

6. Cowboys (7): RB Tony Pollard averages 6.2 yards per touch, a full yard-and-a-half better than limping starter Ezekiel Elliott. Despite Zeke’s salary, you have to wonder if Dallas would be better if he and Pollard switched roles.

7. Titans (8): OLB Harold Landry is the first Tennessee player to notch at least 10 sacks since 2016, when Brian Orakpo did it.

8. Rams (9): Big game Monday night at Arizona, where the Rams haven’t lost since 2014 – when they were still based in St. Louis.

9. Colts (10): Average margin of victory in their seven wins is 18.3 points. They lead the league in takeaways (29) and turnover differential (+13). They’ll be a tough out if they reach postseason.

10. Bills (11): Prohibitive AFC East favorites in preseason, they’re suddenly on verge of falling out of playoff field – next game at Tampa – and not handling pressure well on the field or in their post-game press conferences.

11. Chargers (15): Want to find some consistency from this bunch? Well, since Week 5, they’ve won in all odd-numbered weeks and lost in all even-numbered ones. But Sunday’s home date with the faltering Giants could be welcome tendency breaker for the Bolts.

12. Bengals (6): Issues under center persist, QB Joe Burrow with 16 turnovers (including a league-worst 14 INTs) while enduring 36 sacks, which have cost him a league-high 254 yards. And now Nick Bosa is coming to town.

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13. Ravens (12): John Harbaugh cited their decimated corner ranks as a reason he went for two points and the win Sunday in Pittsburgh. Harbaugh might find himself gambling even more with Pro Bowler Marlon Humphrey apparently now lost for the season.

14. 49ers (13): The defense has nine takeaways over the past four games and could feast on a sloppy Cincinnati team Sunday – assuming it can keep the points down after surrendering 56 over the last two weeks.

15. Washington (19): Last year, they rode a late-season four-game winning streak to a division title. Could history be repeating itself? The scalding WFT now hits its crucial closing stretch, the final five games against NFC East foes.

16. Raiders (16): The passing game is now almost solely reliant on WR Hunter Renfrow, who has 17 catches for 236 yards over the last two games.

17. Eagles (21): Though QB2 Gardner Minshew dressed and performed like Maverick Mitchell from “Top Gun” on Sunday, Philadelphia coach Nick Sirianni was quick to signal Monday that QB1 Jalen Hurts has not been resigned to Goose’s fate.

18. Steelers (20): Is there a more underrated player in the league than WR Diontae Johnson, who’s on pace for a 1,300-yard effort?

19. Browns (18): GM Andrew Berry said of QB Baker Mayfield, “We expect him to play his best stretch of the year here after the bye.” Giddyup – though that might entail Mayfield exclusively handing off to RBs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, who might be playing together more.

20. Broncos (17): Perhaps no team better exemplifies how condensed the AFC playoff race is. Denver entered Sunday night in eighth place in the conference, would have moved up to fourth (and first place in the AFC West) with a win at Kansas City but fell to 12th in defeat.

21. Vikings (14): Coach Mike Zimmer bemoaned last year’s defense, saying it was the worst he’d ever had. He might be singing the same tune after this season.

22. Dolphins (22): Bye week comes at exactly the wrong time for a team that’s won five straight. But with Jets on the other side, Fins should continue successful swim against tide.

23. Saints (23): Coach Sean Payton had never lost five straight in New Orleans since his arrival in 2006 … until now.

24. Seahawks (24): As cooked as they look, the schedule sets up in such a way that Seattle could very well salvage a 9-8 finish. Next stop: Houston.

25. Panthers (27): The last time QB Cam Newton won a start for Carolina? Try Nov. 4, 2018. Maybe that changes soon under new offensive play caller Jeff Nixon.

26. Falcons (25): With 709 receiving yards, Kyle Pitts is very much on course to become first rookie tight end in Super Bowl era (since 1966) to reach 1,000. Jeremy Shockey’s 894 yards in 2002 is the current standard.

27. Giants (26): Count us among those who would take up DB Logan Ryan on his offer to step in at quarterback for Big Blue. How much worse could it go?

28. Bears (28): League’s worst passing offense will likely be forced to put ball in the air frequently during Sunday night’s trip to Lambeau Field.

29. Jets (29): Need a reason to smile, NYJ fans? Rookie WR Elijah Moore looks like a keeper, amassing 28 catches for 392 yards and five TDs in the past five games.

30. Lions (32): Pretty cool how eager Detroit’s players were get a win for rookie coach Dan Campbell. Even cooler how eager Campbell was to share his breakthrough moment with the devastated Oxford High School community.

31. Texans (30): The last time a team suffered two shutouts by 30+ points in the same season was 2002 (Panthers). Until now. In fact, Houston has failed to crack double-digit points in half of its games this season.

32. Jaguars (31): The bad news? They were swept by their NFC opponents for the third straight season. The good news? Jacksonville is a far more respectable 2-5 against the AFC this year.


Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NFL power rankings Week 14 2021: Packers No. 1, Chargers rising

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