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Week 16 power rankings

Packers wide receiver Nelson celebrates his touchdown against the Bears in the second half during their NFL football game in Green Bay

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson (87) celebrates his touchdown against the Chicago Bears in the second half during their NFL football game in Green Bay, Wisconsin December 25, 2011. REUTERS/Darren Hauck (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)


1. Packers (No. 1; 14-1): A week after they were erased as the penciled-in NFC champions, it could be time to break out the tattoo needle.

2. Patriots (No. 2; 12-3): The Dolphins’ ability to build a 17-0 lead shows what a team like the Ravens or Steelers could do in the postseason at Gillette Stadium.

3. Saints (No. 3; 12-3): The win over the Falcons reconfirmed how great the Saints are at home -- and it underscores how differently the Saints play when they leave the Superdome, which they’ll have to do sooner rather than later in the playoffs.

4. 49ers (No. 4; 12-3): In this season of go-go offenses, the Niners are the defense-wins-championships exception to the rule.

5. Ravens (No. 5; 11-4): If the Ravens are going to play down to the level of the competition again this weekend, at least they won’t have to drop very far.

6. Steelers (No. 6; 11-4): Entering Week 17 as the No. 5 seed in the AFC, the Steelers still could climb as high as No. 1.

7. Lions (No. 8; 10-5): With the Eagles eliminated, the Lions are officially the most dangerous team in the NFC playoff field.

8. Bengals (No. 12; 9-6): Andy Dalton gets one more chance to show that he can beat a division rival other than the Browns.

9. Falcons (No. 7; 9-6): The good news is that they don’t have to deal with the agony of another close loss to the Saints.

10. Giants (No. 17; 8-7): Brandon Jacobs will get a chance to “shut up” another “fat boy” this weekend, when the Cowboys and their defensive coordinator come to town.

11. Eagles (No. 20; 7-8): Well, at least the Dream Team will fulfill its goal of winning the last game it plays in the 2011 season.

12. Cowboys (No. 11; 8-7): If the Cowboys finish 0-4 against the Eagles and Giants, how can significant changes not be made?

13. Texans (No. 9; 10-5): The last two games without Wade Phillips were perhaps the best case he could make for another shot at a head-coaching job.

14. Broncos (No. 10; 8-7): If Kyle Orton pulls the plug on Tebowmania, John Elway may have to leave Denver permanently.

15. Raiders (No. 19; 8-7): So is it better to not make the playoffs at all, or to make it and be blown out in Baltimore, Pittsburgh, or New England?

16. Jets (No. 15; 8-7): If this team somehow sneaks into the playoffs, they could likewise sneak into the Super Bowl. Where they would lose by 34 points.

17. Chargers (No. 13; 7-8): Will A.J. Smith at least smile when he learns he’ll be getting paid for three years to not work?

18. Chiefs (No. 14; 6-9): At the end of Saturday’s version of Romeo and Hue-liet, only one of the main characters died.

19. Seahawks (No. 16; 7-8): Apparently, “beat the hell of ‘em” means “lose by only two points.”

20. Cardinals (No. 18; 7-8): Early Doucet was just a little late to the end zone.

21. Panthers (No. 22; 6-9): They’re the perfunctory non-playoff team who will be on everyone’s playoff prediction list for 2012. Including mine.

22. Titans (No. 23; 8-7): Imagine how good this team would have been if Kenny Britt hadn’t torn an ACL.

23. Dolphins (No. 21; 5-10): Imagine how good this team would have been if Chad Henne hadn’t . . . never mind.

24. Bills (No. 25; 6-9): The far bigger miracle than any Tebow-driven win was a Buffalo blowout of the Broncos.

25. Bears (No. 24; 7-8): Kahlil Bell may have cost Matt Forte a lot of money.

26. Redskins (No. 26; 5-10): Evan Royster may have cost, um, someone a lot of money.

27. Jaguars (No. 27; 4-11): With a loss to the Colts ensuring that the Jags won’t have to deal with Andrew Luck for the next 15 years, the team could be tempted to start its worst quarterback. Then again, the worst quarterback on the team arguably is already the starter.

28. Browns (No. 28; 4-11): Six days after Santa’s workshop shut down for the year, the “factory of sadness” will be mothballed for seven months.

29. Vikings (No. 30; 3-12): Even after Saturday’s win, this franchise seems to be getting too accustomed to losing.

30. Colts (No. 32; 2-13): A win is a loss, and a loss is a win. Either way, they lose.

31. Buccaneers (No. 29; 4-11): Barring dramatic changes, the Bucs will own the basement of the NFC South for years to come.

32. Rams (No. 31; 2-13): Stan Kroenke suddenly may be interested in swapping franchises with Shad Khan.