1. New England Patriots (10-3) Last week: 3 The Patriots have claimed the top spot in Shutdown Corner’s power rankings after they dismantled the previous No. 1 team, the Texans, 42-14 on Monday Night Football. That blowout win was a loud statement to the rest of the conference that the AFC will go through Foxboro. 2. San Francisco 49ers (9-3-1) Last week: 5 Coming off their overtime loss to the Rams, the 49ers beat the Dolphins 27-13 and have an opportunity to clinch the NFC West with a win over the Patriots in Gillette Stadium. That’s unlikely to happen, which means the NFC West will be decided in Qwest Field on Dec. 23. 3. Denver Broncos (10-3) Last week: 4 The Broncos moved to 10-3 with a 26-13 win over the Raiders last Thursday night and will ride an eight-game winning streak into Sunday’s meeting with the slumping Ravens. If there is an area of concern for the Broncos, it could be an offense that is 7-for-19 in the red zone and scored just 12 fourth-quarter points over the last four games. 4. Houston Texans (11-2) Last week: 1 By losing to the Patriots on Monday night, the Texans are at risk of finishing outside of the top spot in the AFC South. The Texans have a two-game lead on the Colts with three games to play, with two of those games coming against the Colts to finish out the season. Houston has slipped to the No. 8 spot in Football Outsiders’ team DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) metric, including 12th on offense and a 31st showing on special teams. 5. Green Bay Packers (9-4) Last week: 6 Despite the injuries, the Packers have won seven of their last eight and can clinch the NFC North with a road win over the Bears on Sunday. It’s scary how dangerous this team will be once they get Jordy Nelson, Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson back for the post-season. Oh, and did anyone else notice the “cat who ate the canary” grin on Aaron Rodgers’ face when he was discussing the addition of running back DuJuan Harris with NBC’s Michele Tafoya on Sunday night? Even after losing multiple executives to other NFL teams, Green Bay’s personnel department continues to uncover gems.
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Week 15 Power Rankings: Patriots move to No. 1 spot (Shutdown Corner)