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Power Rankings, Week 17: Broncos take top spot; Chiefs slip

Kinda sucks, doesn't it? Don't know about you, but I miss RFK, the old Mile High, and now the 'Stick ... these old-school grass-field stadiums that saw some of the biggest moments in NFL history -- as well as some of the biggest moments of many of our childhoods. On that note ... in case you missed it, I ranked the top five games in Candlestick Park history at the tail end of last week's Game Picks. Here's the rundown -- of course, feel free to share your thoughts (@HarrisonNFL).

5) 2011, divisional playoff:Alex Smith and Vernon Davistake out the Saints with what is now referred to as "The Catch III."
4) 1980, Saints at 49ers: Joe Montana pulls off a legendary 28-point comeback -- and begins a legendary career. This was once the biggest comeback in league history.
3) 1990, NFC Championship Game: The 49ers fumble away their bid for a threepeat, as the underdog Giants pull off a fake punt and a game-winning kick in a phenomenal matchup.
2) 1998, NFC Wild-Card Game:"The Catch II." Steve Young slips, T.O. hangs on and the 49ers win an incredible wild-card matchup against the two-time defending NFC champions.
1) 1981, NFC Championship Game:"The Catch." Perhaps the greatest game in NFL history.

Elsewhere ...

Brilliant. And for more on whatever it was the Dolphins left on the field in Buffalo ...

OK, we can't get behind that one. We can get behind the rankings below. With only Week 17 left in the 2013 regular season, these are close to set in stone. We'd love to hear your take ... @HarrisonNFL is the place.

Let the dissension commence ...

(Note: Arrows reflect change in standings from last week's Power Rankings.)

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Do yourself a favor and take a look at Peyton Manning's 50th touchdown pass. That was a teardrop floater of the kind that Allen Iverson could appreciate. Manning's 51st was a *beaut* as well. If the Broncos win or the Pats lose, the road to Super Bowl XLVIII will go through Denver -- though that road will be missing what would have been a formidable speed bump in Von Miller, who is out with a torn ACL.

Seattle finally loses at home, dropping a contest marked by turnovers, close calls and the replay booth not indulging in educated guesswork. The primary concern in the defeat to Arizona was the anemic passing attack. In his past three games, Russell Wilson has a 55.7 completion percentage, three touchdown passes, three interceptions, 10 sacks and a 72.4 passer rating. Not the kind of numbers you want to see from a Super Bowl favorite.

So do you think 24 tackles, one interception and one pass defensed earned Luke Kuechly Defensive Player of the Year honors? What a long way he's come since incurring the pass-interference penalty that led to the Bills' game-winning score in Week 2. The fun part of Kuechly's game is the passion that he plays with -- something that can't be evaluated at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Excuse us if we got caught up in the excitement of the ending of Falcons-49ers, but that was freaking awesome. Ironic that, after a night spent highlighting signature moments at the 'Stick -- like "The Catch" -- that were mostly offensive, the game ended on an incredible defensive play. Tell us any team would be looking forward to playing the 49ers with Michael Crabtree at full strength right now. No way.

New England sure looked the part in Baltimore, eh? The Patriots' defense was awesome, while their running game made them seem like they could be a viable threat to the Von Miller-less Broncos. Thirty-four carries for 142 yards. That's worthy of a leap in the Power Rankings.

What a dud. A friendly crowd was behind them, all nattily clad in Christmas Chiefs red ... home-field advantage and the AFC West were both still up for grabs ... and the Chiefs had their butts handed to them. Kansas City's offense was dismal at best. When it comes to rude holiday visitors, only a few can top what the Colts did.

As painful as the loss in Carolina was, the task is truly on the table for New Orleans now. The Panthers will likely beat the Falcons next week, which means in the playoffs (they'll get in over Arizona), the Saints will play on the road, where they have struggled mightily. Whether working in front of hostile fans causes issues for the offense or this team just feeds off a friendly crowd more than any other, there is no getting around New Orleans' 3-5 away record. Rob Ryan's defense faltered when it counted in Charlotte, much as it did in New England.

Can any good team be more inconsistent than the Bengals? Yes: The Lions. (Sorry, that was a layup.)

Two weeks ago, the Bengals hammered the Colts in Cincinnati, then got their butts kicked in Pittsburgh before pouncing on the Vikings on Sunday. Forcing four turnovers helped, as did Matt Cassel suddenly remembering that he's Matt Cassel. Next week, the Bengals will play for the AFC's No. 2 seed and a first-round bye. Make no mistake: Given how the Stripes have fared in the wild-card round the past two years, getting that week off would be huge.

No movement for the Cards, as the team above them (the Bengals) won big while the Saints, who are two spots ahead, have beaten Arizona head to head ... and all have the same record. Here's a question: Who deserves Coach of the Year honors more than Bruce Arians? No one, and I mean no one, expected Arizona to be 10-5 coming off a win in Seattle. Of course, Arians won the award last year. No head coach has repeated since Joe Gibbs in 1982 and '83. #TheHogs

What a statement from the Colts. Even the most ardent fan of the Horseshoe will admit that the team had not played well since Reggie Wayne went down in the emotional Week 7 win over the Broncos. Andrew Luck aside, holding the Chiefs to 287 yards and seven points is damn impressive. The Colts have yielded a total of 10 points in two weeks.

Love how the Eagles utilize the running attack; it really is a thing of beauty. Philly came into Sunday night's matchup leading the league with 152.9 rushing yards per game -- and flat-out blew past that mark, posting nearly three bills against the Bears. Looks like Wilbert Montgomery's single-season team record of 1,510 yards might go down. Oh, well. Who's looking forward to Sunday night? This guy ... was. #NeckBeard

Not sure I've seen an offense falter that badly since the Cowboys fell apart against the Eagles in a must-win regular-season finale in 2008. For the stats on this game, just check the Bills blurb below. Once again, Ryan Tannehill was sacked too much (seven times). That was the matchup -- Miami's pass protection versus Buffalo's pass rush -- that we prominently mentioned in Game Picks. People should note that the high sack total this season (58!) is just as much on Tannehill's lack of pocket awareness as it is on the offensive line.

The Chargers hung in the playoff race while providing yet another textbook example of how to win by using their running backs effectively. Ryan Mathews gained 99 yards on the ground and Danny Woodhead added 52, and both were involved in the passing game. Now the Bolts will be pulling for the AFC's two most inconsistent teams -- the Bengals and Jets -- to deliver. Should be interesting.

For a team that had everything to play for Sunday night, man did the Bears look pathetic. That's OK. Chicago can erase the effects of the big loss in Philly by winning the NFC North in the upcoming matchup with the Packers. On another note, I thought Cris Collinsworth was correct in pointing out the fantastic contribution of rookie right tackle Jordan Mills. What a bargain he was in the fifth round.

Huge loss in Baltimore, in terms of both the scoreboard and the standings. Now the Ravens have their work cut out for them with a road date in Cincinnati. The Bengals will play for a playoff bye, and -- with the Patriots squaring off against the Bills at the same time -- will not know whether they can rest players. Thus, this Week 17 contest should be an honest one. Oh, by the way, are the Ravens allergic to gaining more than 4 yards per carry?

Unbelievable game in Green Bay on so many fronts. That was a Hall of Fame effort by Troy Polamalu, jarring the ball loose from Matt Flynn in the late stages. The punter option was pretty sweet; you can't stop Mat McBriar rolling to his right.

Matt Flynn hung in there and, at times, kept the Packers competitive. Yet, ball protection at this time of the year is so important. There was absolutely no reason to stay inbounds and not protect the football with two minutes to go deep in his own territory in a 31-31 game. Flynn's fumble was a huge mistake, one that could've proved the difference between making the playoffs and staying home -- until Chicago was steamrolled by Philadelphia. Look for the Bears to get Aaron Rodgers'd this Sunday.

Most intelligent football fans realize that Tony Romo's comebacks will never get as much airtime as his foul-ups, so we'll go in another direction. Despite DeMarco Murray's 22 attempts, Jason Garrett and Bill Callahan got away from the run AGAIN in the third quarter against the Redskins, though Murray had been averaging 6.5 yards per carry to that point. Thankfully for them, the quarterback they threw under the bus last week might have saved their gigs. Too bad no one was protecting *his* back.

Tell you what: Everyone is on the Eddie Lacy and Keenan Allen train when it comes to Offensive Rookie of the Year, but what about Zac Stacy? The dude has 958 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. Maybe he doesn't win the thing, but give the man his due.

Detroit takes another brutal loss, and with that, the Jim Schwartz era is likely over. What boggles the mind more than anything is how the Lions' receivers -- yes, even future Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson -- can drop so many catchable footballs. The team entered Sunday's contest with 41 drops -- the next closest in the NFC, St. Louis, had 30 -- and the Lions dropped a few more against the Giants en route to letting a trip to the playoffs slip through their fingers. We really respect Detroit fans, who have supported a team that lets them down in the most painful ways. Stay with them; that's what true fans do.

Resilient win for Rex Ryan's Jets. For how much longer will they be Rex Ryan's Jets? Who knows? Yet, the lightning rod of a head coach could at least make the decision difficult if he gets Gang Green to extinguish Miami's playoff hopes Sunday.

The comeback win no one saw happened Sunday in Jacksonville. The Titans prevailed the way Mike Munchak has wanted them to all year: by pounding the run. Shonn Greene rushed for 91 yards, Chris Johnson for 90. Signed as a free agent over the spring, Greene has barely been used. In fact, he had just 52 carries coming into Week 16. Tennessee gave him 19, taking a load off quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick while holding on to the ball for nearly 36 minutes.

Nice character win for the Giants, who, though playing for nothing, now have six victories in a season that maybe hasn't been the abomination people have made it out to be. Still, two career Super Bowl titles or no, Eli Manning is the only quarterback in the past 25 seasons to be picked off 25 times in two separate campaigns. Now that's what we call a stat.

Dominant win for the Bills. Just wish it would have come in the middle weeks of the season, when Buffalo has a recent habit of being the worst team in football. At some point, this club will put it all together, but in the meantime, they limited the Dolphins to 103 yards -- that's less than 2 yards per play -- and a 2-for-15 success rate on third and fourth downs.

The " Matt Cassel-saves-the- Vikings" campaign lasted for a week or two. It was a good run, man. Speaking of, how's this for weird things you find in a box score? Cordarrelle Patterson, the explosive wide receiver, led the Vikings in rushing Sunday with three carries for 54 yards ... and caught three balls for 8 yards. Wait, what?

Tough to evaluate Mike Glennon when the Bucs never take the training wheels off. Over the past eight weeks, he's attempted 23, 21, 23, 21, 21, 25, 34 and 26 passes. Of course, it doesn't help that the Bucs ran 23 times for 59 yards against the Rams. Ugh.

Gus Bradley's guys have lost two straight home games that they had an opportunity to win. As we've stated before, the important thing to note here is that the Jaguars are in every game these days. Over their past seven contests, Jacksonville has scored 151 points and given up 155. The Jags are getting there, people.

Another close loss for the 4-11 Browns. Seriously, how many of these are they going to have? Either way, the cynical Cleveland fan can appreciate that the defeat did improve the value of the team's non- Trent Richardson-derived first-round pick. In other news, novelist Edwin Baker looked effective running the football again. OK, he's not a novelist, but with that name, he sounds like one of Edgar Allan Poe's competitors for a book deal. # BrownsFootball2014

Atlanta fought the good fight, with Matt Ryan taking his shots while Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez gave virtual Power Point presentations on making tough catches in traffic. Gonzo is so Hall of Fame money he doesn't know he's Hall of Fame $.

" Darren McFadden with the touchdown run," said, well, no one ever. Or, at least, it seemed that way until he scored Sunday versus the Chargers. It's amazing how his career has dwindled. Don't expect a huge market for the formerly explosive McFadden when he becomes a free agent this offseason. Unfortunately, Run DMC has walked this way a bit too much ... without running enough.

Win, lose, or draw, I still like the way Kirk Cousins composes himself on the football field, be it with the lead or under duress. Is it blasphemous to say the Redskins are a better team with him under center?

Expound on what you will about how bad the Texans have been this season, or about Wade Phillips' abilities as a head coach, but the guys on that roster were out there playing Sunday, full bore. Yes, Houston lost. But the game was closer than the final score suggests.

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter _@HarrisonNFL_.

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