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Week 14 NFL Power Rankings: The Bengals Own The Chiefs, But The Eagles Are The Clear Team To Beat

Mitchell Leff. Getty Images.

How crazy is it that the Philadelphia Eagles moved off an MVP-contending quarterback in Carson Wentz so early after paying him so much money, only to have another potential, actual MVP emerge in Jalen Hurts? 

Most teams tuck their tails, submit to the sunk-cost fallacy and shut themselves away in embarrassment. Hell, Howie Roseman could've been fired for pulling some shit like that. Instead, Howie has risen from the ashes, assembled arguably the best roster in the NFL, and his audacious move from Wentz to Hurts was well worth the controversy.

Just wanted to shout out the Eagles a bit at the top so I don't come across as too much of a homer HELLL YEAHHHHHHHH GOOOO BENGALS WHO DEY!!!

Sorry something just went a little funny in my brain. Speaking of which, had my first losing NFL ATS picks week of the season (4-11) in which my neurons apparently stopped firing, because my independently-made SU picks went 12-2-1. 

Mind-numbingly stupid. I'm being vulnerable over here, OK? Admitting my downright idiocy to the Internet and all. Doing this for y'all. Hope you can empathize and relate to common humanity. At least I had this to enjoy:

Anyway… Week 14 NFL power rankings off we gooooooooo…

The Stay On The Bus Tier

  • 32. Houston Texans

I love that the Texans are crawling back to Davis Mills just two games after pivoting to Kyle Allen at quarterback. As if that was going to cure their offensive woes. Maybe try not hiring Pep Hamilton as your play-caller next time.

Lovie Smith is a dinosaur of a head coach and Houston should back up the Brinks truck for Jim Harbaugh this offseason. Sell him on working with a Stanford alum in Mills, or doing whatever he wants with the No. 1 overall pick, and dangle the competitive challenge of dragging the Texans to the top of a gettable AFC South. Worth a shot.

The Please Preserve Your Future Tier

  • 31. Chicago Bears

I was ALL-CAPS-ing telling the Bears to shut Justin Fields down for the year last week. Then he went out and almost beat the Packers anyway. Next up for Chicago are home matchups with the Eagles and Bills. YIKES. I do see the benefit in giving Fields reps against elite opposition when he's hopelessly outmatched, but you gotta keep him safe at all costs. Oh, and ensure you keep soft tanking along the way.

Giphy Images.

The Stone-Cold Screwed Tier

  • 30. New Orleans Saints
  • 29. Los Angeles Rams
  • 28. Denver Broncos

It's gotten even worse for these clubs after they took losses in Week 13. I don't think I need to expound much more beyond the latest draft hierarchy located below this paragraph. I will say, I've got my popcorn ready to see what Baker Mayfield does with the Rams. Both LA and Denver have excellent defenses as redeeming qualities. New Orleans has a defensive head coach in Dennis Allen who's seen his Saints regress on that side of the ball. Doesn't bode well for his job security.

Updated 2023 NFL Draft order:

  1. Texans
  2. Bears
  3. Seahawks (via Broncos)
  4. Lions (via Rams)
  5. Eagles (via Saints)

The "It Behooves Us To Lose" Tier

  • 27. Indianapolis Colts
  • 26. Arizona Cardinals
  • 25. Carolina Panthers

Two of these teams have interim coaches, and Arizona's Kliff Kingsbury must have the hottest seat in the league among those full-timers still employed. All three of these organizations need a hard reset in the offseason. I don't know whose heads are going to roll, but heads are going to roll.

In the case of Carolina and Indianapolis, it's all about being in position to draft a first-round QB. Andrew Luck in 2012 was the Colts' last swing at a signal-caller that high and it was the no-brainer of all-time. The Panthers took Cam Newton No. 1 overall the year before Indy did Luck. Enough pitter-pattering and stopgapping. Get your guy in the draft, or perhaps go get Jimmy G!

The "Only Alive Because Of Our Quarterback" Tier

  • 24. Jacksonville Jaguars
  • 23. Green Bay Packers

Big asterisk on this one with the 4-8 Jags, because Trevor Lawrence is dealing with a sprained toe and may not play on Sunday. Lawrence has had so many quality starts this year. Jacksonville has ben competitive in damn near every outing. It's this thing where you're waiting for the light to fully turn on, for the Jags to somehow stun Tennessee and to surge to the AFC South title. They'll need to win out and get some help from the Titans. Helps that both their head-to-head meetings remain.

However ugly it's looked at times, Aaron Rodgers is still the NFL's reigning back-to-back MVP. This tier is not to take anything away from Christian Watson, who's exploded as a legit WR1 in the second half of his rookie campaign. Green Bay also needs to win out. Ever since Rodgers' renowned "R-E-L-A-X" proclamation many moons ago, I've known better than to count him out.

The Please Don't Somehow Make The Playoffs Tier

  • 22. Atlanta Falcons
  • 21. Pittsburgh Steelers
  • 20. Cleveland Browns

At least Arthur Smith finally caved and moved off Marcus Mariota in favor of rookie QB Desmond Ridder. I don't know that it'll matter, but if Ridder can play at a decent level and get his shit together during the Falcons' late Week 14 bye, maybe they can steal the NFC South from the sluggish Bucs.

As for the pair of 5-7 AFC North clubs, personal bias aside, nobody wants to see Kenny Pickett with a trashy offensive coordinator in the postseason, nor does anyone outside of Browns fandom desire to see the disgraced Deshaun Watson grace our TV screens. GTFOH with that shit.

The IRL Purgatory Tier

  • 19. Los Angeles Chargers
  • 18. New England Patriots

I can't think of a team who's believed to be good more often only to be accursed in such brutal fashion on an annual basis than the Chargers. They don't have the right coach. Brandon Staley's defense sucks. They're super injured. Justin Herbert is running for his life and still trying to drag the Bolts to a Wild Card berth, and he's even come up short in at least a couple big late-game moments. Until they get a new scheme and a new coaching staff, Herbert can only carry the Chargers so far. Mired in mediocrity.

The game seems to have passed Bill Belichick by. He will never have control of the AFC East again as long as Josh Allen is in Buffalo. Allen OWNS The Hoodie. Then you have the Dolphins with a much more innovative, youthful coach in Mike McDaniel and even the Jets are rising from their toxic muck to be relevant. New England isn't dynamic enough at QB with Mac Jones, nor boast enough skilled pass-catchers to compete with the NFL's elite.

The Marlon Brando Tier

Giphy Images.
  • 17. Las Vegas Raiders
  • 16. New York Jets
  • 15. New York Giants
  • 14. Washington Commanders
  • 13. Detroit Lions
  • 12. Seattle Seahawks
  • 11. Tennessee Titans

Modifying the moniker for this cluster of teams from the "Thespian Tier" to something a little more specific as a means of highlighting Brando's revolutionary performance and iconic line in On the Waterfront. I still think his best work was in A Streetcar Named Desire and he's actually quite good in the musical Guys and Dolls with Frank Sinatra but let's stick to football.

The whole purpose of this tier is to identify which teams will be saying "coulda, shoulda, woulda" at the end of this year due to one fatal flaw or another.

If the 5-7 Raiders didn't blow three 17-point leads this season, they'd be right there among the AFC's elite. Had the Jets not whiffed on No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson and had someone marginally better than Mike White as an alternative, they'd be vying for a Super Bowl. Their stadium-sharing big brother Giants are one, maybe two, maybe three wide receivers away from legitimately threatening anyone. Speaking of stadiums, quick aside:

Both the Lions and Seahawks can score points almost at will. They're just suspect as hell on defense. A legitimate star plugged into any spot on either of those units would've had Detroit and Seattle potentially aspiring to a division crown.

The Titans fired their GM out of nowhere and looked lost in getting blown out by the Eagles, so I hesitate to trust them. They'll still manage to win the AFC South, but I think they'll look back on all the injuries that have piled up, particularly on the offensive line, as the reason they still can't get to that true championship level.

Finally, we have Washington. Taylor Heinicke is the classic underdog, treading water in a sea of corruption that is the Commanders organization. Not terribly dissimilar to Brando's pugilist-turned-docker. Staying afloat in the NFL as long as he has is a testament to Heinicke's inner resolve and steady improvement. It's just that, this dude commits a dizzying amount of turnover-worthy plays (5.7%). Washington fans will look back at their decision to roll with the combo of Carson Wentz and Heinicke by season/postseason's end and wonder, "Why the fuck didn't we trade for Jimmy Garoppolo instead?"

On The Championship Periphery

  • 10. Baltimore Ravens
  • 9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • 8. Miami Dolphins
  • 7. San Francisco 49ers
  • 6. Minnesota Vikings

Quarterback health is the main concern for Baltimore and San Francisco. Almost put the 49ers in the next tier up. I've seen Brock Purdy fall on his face too many times at Iowa State to trust him with a championship-caliber NFL roster. Evidently, the NFL didn't think much of him either since he was Mr. Irrelevant in this year's draft.

The Ravens should get Lamar Jackson back as he deals with a week-to-week knee injury. They fell off in a serious way last year when he went down. Couldn't win without him.

I have Tampa Bay here because of Tom Brady and the Bucs' reemerging elite run defense. Can't help but assume Brady and hte offense will get at least marginally better. They'll host a playoff game, and from there, if you can make opponents one-dimensional and have TB12 on your side, you have a chance.

Two of the lovable upstart teams of the year in the Dolphins and Vikings have first-year head coaches. Only five have ever reached the Super Bowl as rookies. That's why I hesitate to bump either of them up despite how impressive they've been.

The Not Fake In Any Form Or Fashion Tier

  • 5. Kansas City Chiefs
  • 4. Buffalo Bills
  • 3. Cincinnati Bengals
  • 2. Dallas Cowboys
  • 1. Philadelphia Eagles

The Chiefs seem to have damn near everyone else's number except for Cincinnati's. If KC and the Bengals don't have an AFC Championship Game rematch, it'll be because Buffalo knocked one of them out. Lamar Jackson's injury might've turned the conference into a three-team race with Miami lurking as a dark horse.

As for the NFC, the Eagles have proven to be the best team in football. The question is, can they meet expectations as the probable No. 1 seed and deal with the pressure that comes with it? With Dak Prescott back under center for Dallas, I'll be interested to see how the Cowboys handle an easier next two weeks before facing the Iggles at JerryWorld on Christmas Eve.

Twitter @MattFitz_gerald/TikTok