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NFL Week 14 power rankings: The Cardinals, Bucs and Patriots remain a step ahead

Kyler Murray is back, and the Cardinals have a chance to make a championship push. (Kamil Krzaczynski/AP)

Each week during the NFL season, The Post’s Mark Maske ranks the 32 teams. This week, the Cardinals and Buccaneers remain in the top two spots, followed again by the Patriots and Chiefs. Things have settled down a bit in recent weeks. The Cowboys and Rams move up. But the biggest change comes at the bottom, where the Lions move out of the No. 32 slot after finally getting a win.

1. Arizona Cardinals (10-2) | Last week’s rank: 1

QB Kyler Murray and WR DeAndre Hopkins were back in the lineup, and the Cardinals won handily in Chicago. Murray threw for two TDs and ran for two more. Hopkins wasn’t much of a factor, but the Cardinals didn’t need much production from him just yet. The Cardinals survived without Murray and Hopkins, going 2-1. With those stars back, it’s time for them to rev up the offense for a push deep into the postseason.

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-3) | Last week’s rank: 2

QB Tom Brady threw another interception but had four TD passes to go with it as the Bucs won in Atlanta. Brady certainly managed to involve WRs Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, who combined for 22 catches for 242 yards. The Buccaneers are back in a good groove with three straight victories following their two-game skid. Sunday’s matchup with the Bills will be interesting.

3. New England Patriots (9-4) | Last week’s rank: 3

Coach Bill Belichick is doing whatever it takes. In the high winds Monday night at Buffalo, that meant 46 rushing attempts and three passes by rookie QB Mac Jones. It paid off for the Patriots’ seventh straight victory. They’re the No. 1 seed in the AFC and, with their way their defense is playing, there’s no reason to believe they can’t get back to a Super Bowl, minus Tom Brady.

4. Kansas City Chiefs (8-4) | Last week’s rank: 4

It wasn’t a huge offensive performance Sunday night against the Broncos. QB Patrick Mahomes threw for a modest 184 yards, and WR Tyreek Hill and TE Travis Kelce were mostly non-factors. But the defense is playing really well now and led the way in the win. The Chiefs have won five straight and are back to being a legitimate championship threat, particularly if the offense finds its form.

They’re not exactly the same old Chiefs. But they’re reeling off wins again.

5. Green Bay Packers (9-3) | Last week’s rank: 6

As the Packers return from their bye, it’s all about QB Aaron Rodgers’s ability to play through his toe injury. As long as Rodgers is something approaching his best, the Packers are on relatively even terms with any team in the league. The schedule isn’t all that demanding: Four of the Packers’ final five games are against the Bears, Browns, Vikings and Lions. The one tough test is a Dec. 19 game at Baltimore.

6. Dallas Cowboys (8-4) | Last week’s rank: 11

The Cowboys still didn’t look great on offense in their victory Thursday night at New Orleans. The running game was productive only on the long TD dash by Tony Pollard, and the passing game was inconsistent even with QB Dak Prescott having WRs Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb back at his disposal. But the defense was very good, and the Cowboys at least got back into the win column while keeping the NFC East race from getting uncomfortably close. The Cowboys should secure the division title, but they’ll have to raise their level of play if they want to be a factor in the playoffs.

7. Los Angeles Rams (8-4) | Last week’s rank: 12

That was more like what the Rams had in mind as they ended their three-game losing streak with a triumph at home over the Jaguars. LB Von Miller remained mostly inconsequential, and WR Odell Beckham Jr.’s TD catch came with the outcome well in hand. But QB Matthew Stafford had a big day, and WR Cooper Kupp posted eye-catching numbers. Still, it was only the Jaguars. The Rams are constructed to look like that against better opponents.

8. Tennessee Titans (8-4) | Last week’s rank: 8

The Titans seek to regain their footing as they return from their bye. They’re on a two-game losing streak, with defeats to the Texans and Patriots. It’s tempting to say the Titans are fortunate to have a gimme victory at home this weekend against the Jaguars. But they had better not have that mind-set after already losing to the Jets and Texans this season.

9. Baltimore Ravens (8-4) | Last week’s rank: 5

It didn’t work out, but it felt like the right call by Coach John Harbaugh to try for the winning two-point conversion in the final seconds in Pittsburgh. The play-call was good, and QB Lamar Jackson had TE Mark Andrews open. The throw was barely off target. The defeat was costly; the Ravens fell out of the No. 1 seed in the AFC. They rely so much on Jackson to be a playmaker and, at times, a miracle-worker. The margin for error is slim, even more so with the loss of CB Marlon Humphrey to a pectoral injury.

What to know from NFL Week 13: The Ravens’ failed conversion reshapes the AFC

10. Los Angeles Chargers (7-5) | Last week’s rank: 19

The Chargers were surprisingly dominant in their convincing win Sunday at Cincinnati. Justin Herbert outplayed Joe Burrow in the matchup for bragging rights between the top two QBs in the 2020 draft class. The issue for the Chargers is consistency. They’ve alternated losses and wins for six straight weeks since their bye.

11. Cincinnati Bengals (7-5) | Last week’s rank: 7

The Bengals had a chance Sunday, playing at home, to reinforce their status as a top AFC contender. It didn’t happen in the loss to the Chargers. There was plenty of blame to go around: It wasn’t a particularly productive day for QB Joe Burrow, WR Ja’Marr Chase or RB Joe Mixon. Burrow’s finger injury seemed to affect him and could be an issue going forward.

12. Buffalo Bills (7-5) | Last week’s rank: 9

The Monday night game against the Patriots would have been a fine time for the Bills to rise to the occasion, raise their level of play and demonstrate with a signature victory that they will be a team that can go deep into the playoffs. It didn’t happen.

13. Miami Dolphins (6-7) | Last week’s rank: 15

The recovery continues. Sunday’s triumph over the Giants gave the Dolphins five straight victories since their 1-7 start. QB Tua Tagovailoa was solid, and rookie WR Jaylen Waddle was highly productive. The Dolphins can enjoy their bye week and will return with playoff possibilities in a season that once seemed like a lost cause.

14. Indianapolis Colts (7-6) | Last week’s rank: 16

If the Colts give the ball to RB Jonathan Taylor, he produces. He got 32 carries in Sunday’s lopsided victory at Houston and turned them into 143 yards and two TDs. The formula for this team to win games is not complicated: Hand the ball often to Taylor and allow QB Carson Wentz to do a few things in between while limiting his mistakes.

15. Washington Football Team (6-6) | Last week’s rank: 20

Things are going well when your new kicker-by-necessity comes in and calmly delivers a 48-yard game-winning FG on the road. That’s what happened with the Washington Football Team and Brian Johnson on Sunday in Las Vegas. The winning streak is at four games entering the first of two meetings over a three-game span with the Cowboys, and this team clearly believes in its ability to deliver late in tight games.

Washington’s defense continues its transition from liability to strength

16. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5-1) | Last week’s rank: 23

The speculation about QB Ben Roethlisberger retiring at season’s end was intensifying, and the Steelers’ season was unraveling. So it was great football theater for Roethlisberger to throw a pair of fourth-quarter TD passes to WR Diontae Johnson as the Steelers just held on to beat the Ravens in Pittsburgh. It might not change anything. The Steelers still could miss the playoffs, and Roethlisberger still could head off into retirement. But that was a good moment.

17. Philadelphia Eagles (6-7) | Last week’s rank: 25

It was no Jalen Hurts, no problem for the Eagles. They beat the Jets on Sunday at the Meadowlands with Gardner Minshew II filling in at QB. No one should get too carried away about Minshew’s crisp performance. He’s a competent QB with plenty of starting experience, but the Eagles should stick with Hurts as the starter when he’s healthy enough to play. They’re doing well during a retooling season to be within a game of .500 in December and in the NFC playoff chase.

18. Cleveland Browns (6-6) | Last week’s rank: 17

The Browns are due for a victory as they return from their bye. They’ve alternated wins and losses over their past seven games, and it’s their weekend to win. But that could be complicated by facing the Ravens. If the time off allowed QB Baker Mayfield’s assortment of injuries to heal a bit, perhaps he and the Browns can play better down the stretch.

19. Las Vegas Raiders (6-6) | Last week’s rank: 10

That felt like one the Raiders had to have Sunday at home against Washington. They couldn’t come through in crunchtime, and they’ve lost four of their past five. This time, the Raiders didn’t get the flag on the pass interference call that might have won the game — and probably should have won the game — for them.

20. San Francisco 49ers (6-6) | Last week’s rank: 13

That was a bad loss in Seattle. Those kinds of things can happen in divisional games, but the 49ers couldn’t afford such a misstep. TE George Kittle had a big performance, but QB Jimmy Garoppolo reverted with a two-interception outing.

21. Denver Broncos (6-6) | Last week’s rank: 14

The Broncos could have made it a far closer game in the loss Sunday night at Kansas City. The 20-play drive that led to zero points in the first half was a downer, and second-half turnovers sealed the Broncos’ fate. This team is good enough to stay in games and hang around the playoff race but not good enough to be a serious threat to break into the AFC’s upper ranks.

22. Minnesota Vikings (5-7) | Last week’s rank: 18

The ire of plenty of fans seemed directed at Coach Mike Zimmer following the defeat Sunday in Detroit. There’s little that can be done about it this week, with the Vikings facing a quick turnaround before Thursday night’s game at home against the Steelers. But in the bigger picture, things certainly don’t appear to be trending in a positive direction for Zimmer’s job security.

23. New York Giants (4-8) | Last week’s rank: 21

Mike Glennon played poorly while filling in at QB for the injured Daniel Jones in Sunday’s loss at Miami. Jake Fromm could be next after Glennon suffered a concussion. Not all of the problems were fixed, it appears, with the firing of Jason Garrett as offensive coordinator.

24. Atlanta Falcons (5-7) | Last week’s rank: 22

The Falcons kept it close for a half against the Buccaneers but then couldn’t do much on offense in the second half. Coach Arthur Smith has done a decent job, but this is a mediocre-at-best team.

25. Carolina Panthers (5-7) | Last week’s rank: 27

There’s not much reason for optimism as the Panthers return from their bye. RB Christian McCaffrey is done for the season. QB Cam Newton is coming off a pitiable passing performance in the defeat to the Dolphins. The Panthers have lost two straight, three of four and seven of nine. Sunday’s firing of offensive coordinator Joe Brady is unlikely to solve anything. It’s not win-or-else time yet for Coach Matt Rhule. But assuming that this season ends ingloriously, he will face considerable pressure next season in Year 3 in the NFL to demonstrate that he can succeed at this level.

26. Seattle Seahawks (4-8) | Last week’s rank: 28

Just when it was beginning to feel as though the Seahawks were too inept on offense to win a game, any game, they pulled things together Sunday for the upset of the 49ers. QB Russell Wilson was far better, and the offense actually was operational. This is still an ugly season, and the future remains uncertain for many of the organization’s key figures. But at least the Seahawks bought themselves a chance to feel better about things this week.

27. Chicago Bears (4-8) | Last week’s rank: 24

Andy Dalton, filling in again at QB for the injured Justin Fields, threw four interceptions in the loss at home to the Cardinals. The Packers are up next, and there’s little reason to believe the Bears will fare any better in that matchup, no matter who’s at QB.

28. New Orleans Saints (5-7) | Last week’s rank: 26

This now looks unfixable in the short term, even for a coach as good as Sean Payton. There is simply no answer at QB. Taysom Hill threw four interceptions and suffered a finger injury in the loss Thursday night to the Cowboys. Payton likely has to turn back to Trevor Siemian. The Saints have lost five straight games in the same season for the first time under Payton, and now it’s probably about playing out the string and figuring out the QB situation in the offseason.

29. New York Jets (3-9) | Last week’s rank: 29

There’s nothing to do but endure the ups and downs of rookie QB Zach Wilson. It’s a season headed nowhere, but it remains all about whether Wilson can get better.

30. Detroit Lions (1-10-1) | Last week’s rank: 32

Lions win! Lions win! First the 0-17 season came off the board with last month’s tie against the Steelers, and now even 0-16-1 is eliminated with Sunday’s last-second triumph over the Vikings. It was a feel-good victory with real-world emotional impact after Coach Dan Campbell dedicated a game ball to the Oxford High community.

31. Houston Texans (2-10) | Last week’s rank: 30

Their performance was dreadful in a shutout loss at home to the Colts. At this point, it doesn’t even matter whether Tyrod Taylor or rookie Davis Mills is at QB.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10) | Last week’s rank: 31

Is Urban Meyer regretting this? Do the Jaguars regret that they hired him?

What to read about the NFL

Scores | Stats | Standings | Teams | Transactions | Washington Commanders

The latest: Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), the chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, announced that the committee intends to issue a subpoena to compel the testimony of Commanders owner Daniel Snyder.

Exclusive: An employee of Washington’s NFL team accused Snyder of asking for sex, groping her and attempting to remove her clothes, according to legal correspondence obtained by The Post. A team investigation concluded the woman was lying in an attempt to extort Snyder.

Civil suits settled: Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson has reached settlement agreements in 20 of the 24 active civil lawsuits filed against him by women who accused him of sexual misconduct, the attorney for the women announced.

Jerry Brewer: “The Browns were prepared for initial turbulence, but they assumed they were getting Watson at the end of his troubles. Now his disgrace is their disaster.”

Watch football smarter: Gaps | QB protection | Pass routes | Route concepts | Pass coverage

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