By Jonathan Comey
Cold, Hard Football Facts Power Ranker

We consider our Power Rankings the best in the game, but predictors of the future they're not.

Last year, the Packers were No. 6 on our chart heading into Week 17 (much higher than the regular unwashed pundits), before winning the Super Bowl.

None of the five prior Super Bowl winners topped the power rankings at this point in the season either:

2009 Saints No. 3
2008 Steelers No. 4
2007 Giants No. 11
2006 Colts No. 5
2005 Steelers No. 4

So, take heart, non-Packer fans -- other dogs have had their days in the playoffs of late.

On to the rankings!

1. GREEN BAY (14-1)

Last week: 35-21 win vs. Chicago
This week: vs. DET
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Packers have had one of the league’s top six scoring offenses in 14 of the last 19 seasons, and haven’t ranked in the bottom 10 once over that span. The only constant besides the fans? Current chairman emeritus Bob Harlan, who was CEO of the Packers from 1989-2006. But as far as we know, he didn’t score too many touchdowns.

2. NEW ORLEANS (12-3)

Last week: 45-19 win vs. Atlanta
This week: vs. CAR
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Fans of Mark Sanchez and the Jets can take solace in the fact that Drew Brees’ passer ratings in his first two years as a starter were 76.9 and 67.5 before jumping to 104.8. Sanchez fans can also find comfort in booze, which is delicious. It’s also worth noting that Brees is only 190 yards ahead of Tom Brady in passing yards, so Dan Marino’s record isn’t guaranteed to be his by the end of Week 17.

3. NEW ENGLAND (12-3)

Last week:27-24 win vs. Miami
This week: vs. BUF
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Wes Welker is one of 18 players all time with 100+ catches and 1,500+ yards, Rob Gronkowski is one of three tight ends with 1,200+ yards and 10+ TDs,  and Tom Brady is one of five QBs all time with 4,750+ yards and 35+ TDs. Any of those dudes play defense?


Last week:19-17 win at Seattle
This week: at STL
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The 49ers are being outgained by 52.4 yards a game through the air, but they’re +14.9 on the only passing stat that really matters: Passer Rating Differential.

5. BALTIMORE (11-4)

Last week: 20-14 win vs. Cleveland
This week:vs. CLE, at CIN
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Ray Rice needs 131 yards to hit the 2,000-yard mark in yards from scrimmage for the second time in his career; only 15 backs in history have done it more than once.

6. PITTSBURGH (11-4)

Last week: 27-0 win vs. St. Louis
This week: at CLE
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Steelers’ defense always gets mad after a loss. Dating back to the start of 2010, Pittsburgh has eight regular-season losses, and the game after (all wins), they’ve allowed 10, 21, 3, 3, 0, 17, 17 and 0 points (8.9 PPG).

7. HOUSTON (10-5)

Last week:19-16 loss at Indianapolis
This week: vs. TEN
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Even with their recent post-clinch slump, the Texans are in the top five in four key stats: turnover margin (fifth), point differential (fifth), passer rating differential (second) and yardage differential (second), and still rank No. 1 in our Quality Stats Power Rankings.

8. DETROIT (10-5)

Last week: 38-10 win vs. San Diego
This week: at GB
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Lions threw 16 touchdown passes in 2009, 26 in 2010, and have 36 thus far in 2011. This is the right kind of trend to be on, and at that rate of growth by 2017 they project to throw for 96 scores (which would be a lot).

­­9. CINCINNATI (9-6)

Last week: 23-16 win vs. Arizona
This week: vs. BAL
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The margin is awfully thin for the Bengals; they’re +1 in turnovers and an average of +5.3 yards per game. Not surprisingly, 13 of their 15 games have been decided by 10 points or fewer.  


Last week: 29-14 win at New York Jets
This week: vs. DAL
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: If big plays aren’t getting made in the passing game, it’s not getting done for the Giants. They don’t have a kick return, punt return or rush over 40 yards all season.

11. ATLANTA (9-6)

Last week: 45-16 loss at New Orleans
This week: vs. TB
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Falcons haven’t rushed for 100 yards in five straight games; this mirrored their 2010 season, which ended with five straight sub-100 efforts on the ground. Do they forget they have Michael Turner in December, or does he wear down?  


Last week: 20-7 win at Dallas
This week: vs. WAS
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Michael Vick’s return to the lineup has come with one conspicuous change; he isn’t running. He averaged 59.4 yards and 7.2 carries before going out with an injury, but in the three games back he’s averaging 17 yards and 3.3 carries.

13. DALLAS (8-7)

Last week: 20-7 loss vs. Philadelphia
This week: at NYG
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Cowboys have only played five games against Quality Opponents, fewest in the league; they’re 1-4 in those games.

14. OAKLAND (8-7)

Last week: 16-13 win at Kansas City
This week: vs. SD
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: How does a team that is about to set the record for most penalties in a season – and gets outscored by 4.1 points a game -- manage to have playoff hopes in Week 17? The AFC West doesn’t hurt. Neither does having the best pair of legs in the league (Shane Lechler, 50.7 average, Sebastian Janikowski, 15 FGs of 40+).

15. NEW YORK JETS (8-7)

Last week: 29-14 loss vs. Giants
This week: at MIA
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Fumbles are the hidden stat in assessing a quarterback, and Mark Sanchez does a lot of it – 29 in his three seasons.

16. DENVER (8-7)

Last week: 40-14 loss at Buffalo
This week: vs. KC
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Broncos are in the hunt largely because of their pass rush – 23 sacks in 2010, 40 through 15 games in 2011.

17. CAROLINA (6-9)

Last week: 48-16 win vs. Tampa
This week: at NO
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Cam Newton is responsible for a lot of Carolina’s offensive improvement, but the Offensive Hogs have done more than their share; they were ranked No. 31 last year, and are all the way up to No. 2 this year.

18. SAN DIEGO (7-8)

Last week: 38-10 loss at Detroit
This week: at OAK         
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: When the Chargers lose, you can usually blame the defense – since the start of 2010, they’re 12-1 when they allow fewer than 20 points, 4-14 when they allow 20+.

19. SEATTLE (7-8)

Last week: 19-17 loss vs. San Francisco
This week: at ARI
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Marshawn Lynch has a 4.2 YPC average and 12 rushing TDs on 266 attempts for Seattle this year; backups Leon Washington, Justin Forsett and Michael Robinson have a 3.4 average and one TD on 90 attempts.

20. TENNESSEE (8-7)

Last week: 23-17 win vs. Jacksonville
This week: at HOU
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Jason McCourty leads all NFL cornerbacks with 96 tackles; brother Devin of New England is fifth with 82.

21. ARIZONA (7-8)

Last week: 23-16 loss at Cincinnati
This week: vs. SEA
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Larry Fitzgerald’s numbers continue to be QB-proof. Sure, he had Kurt Warner for awhile, but over eight season he’s caught passes from Shaun King, John Navarre, Josh McCown, Matt Leinart, Tim Rattay, Derek Anderson, Max Hall, John Skelton and Kevin Kolb. End result? An average season of 1,183 yards and nine TDs.

22. MIAMI (5-10)

Last week: 27-24 loss at New England
This week: vs. NYJ
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Rookie RB Daniel Thomas has the unpleasant distinction of having the most offensive touches (163) without a touchdown. The record: Marcel Shipp managed 258 touches without a score for Arizona in 2003.

23. CHICAGO (7-8)

Last week:35-21 loss at Green Bay
This week: at MIN
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Kicker Robbie Gould is 9-for-11 from 50+ yards the last three seasons. He also represents their best chance to score points since Jay Cutler went down.

24. BUFFALO (6-9)

Last week: 40-14 win vs. Denver
This week: at NE
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Between Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, the Bills had the best two-headed back in the league this year. The two have combined for 1,435 rushing yards and a 5.4 YPC average to go with 74 catches and 671 yards.

25. WASHINGTON (5-10)

Last week: 33-26 loss vs. Minnesota
This week: at PHI
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Team nickname is “Redskins,” which is somewhat controversial. Anything else interesting about this team? Nope.

26. KANSAS CITY (6-9)

Last week:16-13 loss vs. Oakland
This week: at DEN
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Chiefs have only allowed 12 more first downs then they’ve gotten (275-263), but have been doubled up in touchdowns (38-19). So it’s bend …   then break.

27. CLEVELAND (4-11)

Last week: 20-14 loss at Baltimore
This week: vs. PIT
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The poor Browns are 0-9 against Quality Opponents, and likely to be 0-10 by the end of the weekend. They were 2-8 against Quality Opponents last year … and the AFC North isn’t getting any easier.

28. MINNESOTA (3-12)

Last week:33-26 win at Washington
This week: vs. CHI
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: If you’re doubting Adrian Peterson’s ability to come back from injury, consider that he responded to two seasons of fumbling problems by fumbling exactly once in each of the last two seasons (545 touches). That suggests there could be some mental toughness at play.


Last week: 23-17 loss at Tennessee
This week: vs. IND
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Blaine Gabbert is struggling (64.3 rating), but has only committed 15 turnovers in his 13 starts (11 interceptions, four fumbles lost).


Last week: 19-16 win vs. Houston
This week: at JAX
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Reggie Wayne needs 113 yards in Week 17 to hit the 1,000-yard mark for the eighth straight season. He hasn’t missed a game since 2001.

31. TAMPA BAY (4-11)

Last week: 46-16 loss at Carolina
This week: at ATL
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Bucs are plenty bad, but take some pity on them; they faced Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan, Drew Brees (twice), Jay Cutler, Matt Schaub, Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton and Tony Romo. 

32. ST. LOUIS (2-13)

Last week: 27-0 loss at Pittsburgh
This week: vs. SF
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Want more bad news for the Rams? Only one member of their rookie class was a regular starter (tight end Lance Kendricks), so they can’t really blame youth.