NFL Power Rankings Week 14: We have a new No. 1

The New England Patriots beat the Buffalo Bills 23-3 for their eighth straight win, Tyrod Taylor left the game with a knee injury, while Rob Gronkowski briefly loses his head.

Well, it had to happen sometime. No, not the Philadelphia Eagles’ loss Sunday night after winning nine straight — the New England Patriots‘ return to No. 1 of Sportsnet’s weekly NFL power rankings.

This is the team, after all, that’s won eight straight games after dropping two of its first four. The team that’s made the playoffs 14 of the last 16 seasons and is just a hair from making that 15. The team that’s won five Super Bowls in that same stretch.

While many may not like it, our panel unanimously agreed: Right now (and with the weight of history behind them), this team is just too good to keep out of the top spot.

As always, the panel includes editor Geoff Lowe, as well as staff writers Donnovan Bennett, Mike Johnston and Emily Sadler.

1. New England Patriots

2017 record: 10-2
Previous: 2

Sunday’s dominant win over the punchless Bills improves the Patriots’ record against Buffalo to 29-4 in the Brady-Belichick era. (GL)

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2. Philadelphia Eagles

2017 record: 10-2
Previous: 1

Russell Wilson, missed opportunities and uncharacteristic mistakes doomed the Eagles, who now head to Southern Cal for a tough matchup against the dangerous Rams. (GL)

3. Minnesota Vikings

2017 record: 10-2
Previous: 4

Vikings’ QB Case Keenum went 18-of-18 on passes thrown between the numbers Sunday, the most attempts without an incompletion since the NFL started tracking that stat in 2006. Instead of debating if Keenum should keep his job or be given an extension, we should be debating if he’s the MVP of the league. (DB)

4. Pittsburgh Steelers

2017 record: 10-2
Previous: 3

The Steelers erased a 17-point deficit to win on the road on Monday night, setting up two crucial games against the Ravens and Patriots. If they want home field throughout the playoffs, this is their chance to secure it. (DB)

5. Los Angeles Rams

2017 record: 9-3
Previous: 5

The Rams kept their first-place ranking in the NFC West with another big win thanks in part to a strong special-teams performance that proved just how well-rounded this team is.

Can we just fast forward to Sunday now? Carson Wentz and the Eagles are L.A.-bound, and we… can’t… wait. (ES)

6. New Orleans Saints

2017 record: 9-3
Previous: 6

Took sole possession atop the NFC South standings with a win over Carolina. Alvin Kamara again shone and has worked his name into the Offensive Rookie of the Year conversation. (MJ)

7. Seattle Seahawks

2017 record: 8-4
Previous: 9

The more obstacles you put in Russell Wilson’s way — injuries, lack of a run game, team penalties, you name it — the better this guy plays. He out-performed a top-rated Eagles squad Sunday night as the wild-card Seahawks continue to chase the Rams for top spot in the NFC West. (ES)

8. Carolina Panthers

2017 record: 8-4
Previous: 7

A pair of losses to the Saints could cost them home-field advantage if they hold on to make the playoffs. (MJ)

9. Jacksonville Jaguars

2017 record: 8-4
Previous: 10

The Jags had lost 74 of 96 games over their previous six seasons yet find themselves sitting four games above .500 and positioned nicely heading into the final stretch. (MJ)

10. Atlanta Falcons

2017 record: 7-5
Previous: 8

The Falcons were held without a touchdown for the first time since Dec. 3, 2015. They remain in the NFC wild-card picture but making the post-season will be an uphill battle. (MJ)

11. Tennessee Titans

2017 record: 8-4
Previous: 11

A late, 75-yard TD from Derrick Henry sealed a win over Houston and kept them on pace with Jacksonville. (MJ)

12. Baltimore Ravens

2017 record: 7-5
Previous: 13

The Ravens’ only shot at the post-season looks to be the wild card as they are three games back of the Steelers with four games to go. They’ll be without Jimmy Smith for those contest as he was suspended four games for PED use. (DB)

13. Los Angeles Chargers

2017 record: 6-6
Previous: 15

The AFC West is in a gridlock, and the Chargers are stuck right in the middle after another win (this time against Cleveland) and another loss for the Chiefs. Philip Rivers’s hot streak continued and L.A.’s defence came up big late in the game to shut down the Browns. (ES)

14. Oakland Raiders

2017 record: 6-6
Previous: 16

Oakland climbed back into the playoff picture with back-to-back wins over the Broncos and Giants and a free fall in Kansas City. Now they’ll face those Chiefs, eying a season sweep with top spot in the division on the line. (ES)

15. Dallas Cowboys

2017 record: 6-6
Previous: 19

With or without Ezekiel Elliott, the winning formula for these Cowboys is running the football, and that was the difference last Thursday as Dallas kept its slim playoff hopes alive. (GL)

16. Detroit Lions

2017 record: 6-6
Previous: 12

The health of Stafford’s throwing hand will determine if the Lions are pretenders or contenders. (DB)

17. Washington Redskins

2017 record: 5-7
Previous: 14

Kirk Cousins continues to play at a high level and prove why it should be a no-brainer for Washington to sign him long-term. Unfortunately, a lack of quality complementary pieces means Cousins and the Redskins will miss the post-season for a second straight year. (GL)

18. Green Bay Packers

2017 record: 6-6
Previous: 22

The Packers are still alive and Aaron Rodgers could return as early as Week 15. Brett Hundley has been tough to watch at times but has kept them afloat. (DB)

19. Cincinnati Bengals

2017 record: 5-7
Previous: 20

When you lose by blowing a 17-point lead and recording a franchise high in penalty yards, your coach is going to be under fire. Could the Brown family finally cut Marvin Lewis? (DB)

20. Buffalo Bills

2017 record: 6-6
Previous: 17

Another impressive defensive display after that disastrous three-game losing streak in November was for nought as the offence answered with its worse passing display of the season — statistically, at least. (GL)

21. Arizona Cardinals

2017 record: 5-7
Previous: 21

The Cardinals’ division loss to the Rams had huge repercussions on their playoff hopes, setting them back four and three games behind L.A. and Seattle, respectively, in the NFC West and leaving them with plenty of roster questions as we near the off-season. (ES)

22. New York Jets

2017 record: 5-7
Previous: 28

Todd Bowles has done an incredible job of getting the most out of his roster as the Jets tore apart the Chiefs’ defence with their best offensive output in nearly 15 months. (GL)

23. Kansas City Chiefs

2017 record: 6-6
Previous: 18

The Chiefs found their offence again, but their defence didn’t show up against the New York Jets.

Kansas City last faced Oakland in Week 7, losing late to their division foes. They’ve struggled ever since, winning just one of the past seven games, and now they’ll meet again Sunday with the division all tied up. (ES)

24. Miami Dolphins

2017 record: 5-7
Previous: 27

Nothing solves a losing streak these days like a home game against the Broncos, and the Dolphins took advantage with their most lopsided win of the season. (GL)

25. Houston Texans

2017 record: 4-8
Previous: 23

Houston will finish at or below .500 for just the second time since 2010. (MJ)

26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2017 record: 4-8
Previous: 24

The Bucs had more yards, first downs and possession time than the Packers, but a costly fumble that resulted in a TD hurt as they fell to Green Bay in OT. (MJ)

27. Chicago Bears

2017 record: 3-9
Previous: 25

The Bears had just eight first downs versus the lowly 49ers. Robbie Gould outscored their entire team. They boast arguably the worst offence in recent memory. (DB)

28. Indianapolis Colts

2017 record: 3-9
Previous: 29

Not that they ever had a real shot, but they were mathematically eliminated from the post-season Sunday. (MJ)

29. San Francisco 49ers

2017 record: 2-10
Previous: 31

The 49ers squeaked by the Bears on Sunday but the biggest victory came in knowing that this team has found its No. 1 quarterback.

Jimmy Garoppolo completed 26 of 37 passes for 293 yards and a victory in his first start for San Francisco that earned rave reviews. (ES)

30. New York Giants

2017 record: 2-10
Previous: 30

Owner John Mara and the Giants are now in damage control. However, they started about six weeks too late. The rebuild of Big Blue might be this off-season’s most fascinating storyline. (GL)

31. Denver Broncos

2017 record: 3-9
Previous: 26

Another week, another loss for the Broncos, who continue to battle against the Giants for title of “Most Disappointing Team of the Year.”

What else can go wrong in Denver? (ES)

32. Cleveland Browns

2017 record: 0-12
Previous: 32

Hue Jackson said recently “You can’t have enough good quarterbacks.” Problem is the Browns don’t have any. Deshaun Watson still has 13 more passing touchdowns than DeShone Kizer this year. (DB)