Editor's Note: SB Nation's partner FanDuel is running a $1.2M fantasy football league on Sunday. First place wins $100,000. Join now!
The latest round of NFL power rankings has a lot of movement at the top.
That's thanks to a host of top-10 teams going down in Week 16. That included the previously-unbeaten Carolina Panthers, who lost to a 7-8 Atlanta Falcons team. Still, Carolina has the NFL's best record at 14-1, and that's enough to remain at the top of most of the Week 17 rankings.
Also losing this past week were the Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, and Seattle Seahawks. Those were easily four of the best eight to 10 teams going into last week, and they've all taken at least a slight dip in this week's rankings.
As for the Cincinnati Bengals, you could honestly argue they should stay at the same spot this week after taking the Denver Broncos to overtime. Playing against the Broncos in primetime with big playoff implications on the line, is no easy task, but Cincinnati could have easily won that game.
That said, losers tend to fall in rankings, and the Bengals aren't getting any special treatment. Yahoo Sports' Frank Schwab liked what he saw from the Bengals and AJ McCarron enough so that he kept them at No. 5 in his latest rankings.
AJ McCarron looked really good for a half against Denver, and then the top-ranked defense in the NFL got to him. Still was a pretty positive performance for someone in his second career start. That won't help the Bengals feel better, because their shot at a first-round bye probably vanished in Denver. And that probably hurts Andy Dalton's chances of returning for the playoff opener, without the week off.
SB Nation's Danny Kelly also had positive things to say about McCarron and kept Cincy at the No. 7 spot in his latest rankings.
The Bengals, even with backup AJ McCarron starting at quarterback and even with a loss to Denver on Monday night, still look like a contender as well. Cincy will probably have to make due without Andy Dalton for a few more weeks, so McCarron's play has been encouraging for their chances at a Super Bowl run, and that defense remains stout enough to give them a shot to win against anyone. Hue Jackson's playcalling continues to be a different maker on a week to week basis.
While it was a good performance by Cincinnati and McCarron, it wasn't good enough to get a win, or make NFL.com's Elliot Harrison feel confident this will be the Bengals team that ends the franchise's playoff drought.
Where is this team headed? One-and-done in the playoffs? Or can AJ McCarron win a wild-card game if need be? Although McCarron fared admirably Monday night, the offense still only generated three points after the first two drives. Until Andy Dalton returns to the huddle, it will be difficult to gauge the Bengals. We know this, though: Vontaze Burfict can't commit that penalty in overtime. Tough call on a solid player, but those 15 yards were huge.
There's also no denying the Bengals are 1-2 without Andy Dalton, as ESPN pointed out while dropping the Bengals down to No. 6.
Including the game in which he was injured, the Bengals are 1-2 since losing Andy Dalton. The Bengals are scoring on 30 percent of drives with AJ McCarron this season (43 percent with Dalton).
The Bengals did manage to get a nice boost from the latest USA Today rankings, moving up to No. 6.
Come-from-ahead loss in Denver prevented them from clinching bye week that might prove crucial to QB Andy Dalton's status.
CBS Sports' Pete Prisco kept Cincy at the No. 5 spot while also noting how they'll likely be playing in the Wild Card round because of this setback.
They will now likely play the first weekend of the playoffs. That could mean playing without Andy Dalton.
As for the Bengals' next opponent, the Baltimore Ravens are rising up the rankings thanks to their big win over the Steelers. Still, they're ranked near the bottom of every ranking as the stench of a 5-10 season is too much to overlook. They're ranked in the bottom five in several rankings and are as low as 28. Their highest ranking is 24, by ESPN.
You can pretty much toss out the rankings though any time a rivalry game is involved. That's true in any sport as teams tend to bring their A-game when they face a hated rival. The Ravens would love nothing more than to end 2015 on a high note and beat the AFC North champs in the process.
Here's a roundup of each major power ranking from this week compared to last week.
|CBS Sports (Pete Prisco)||5||5||0|