Updated: December 30, 2014, 3:15 PM ET
2014 NFL Power Rankings: Week 18
Should the Patriots be penalized for losing a meaningless game? According to ESPN's Power Panel (a group of more than 80 writers, editors and TV personalities), yes.
New England fell to No. 2 after dropping Sunday's regular-season finale, giving Seattle the No. 1 spot and Power Rankings "title" for 2014. Green Bay finished at No. 3, with Denver at No. 4.
But enough about the Pats and other teams that have playoff byes. Of the eight teams playing in this weekend's wild-card round, who's best equipped to go on a run? Our voters are highest on the Cowboys (No. 5). The Steelers are No. 6, followed by the Lions (No. 7), Colts (No. 8), Bengals (No. 9), Cardinals (No. 10), Ravens (No. 11) and Panthers (No. 15).
The playoffs rarely go according to form, so there's good chance someone on this list will spring an upset. Are any of these teams Super Bowl material? Maybe, but after 17 weeks, our money's on Seattle and New England.
Note: The comments below are provided by ESPN Stats & Information.
• SN: Rank 'Em | <Vegas Rankings | Team Power Rankings charts since 2002
|Since losing to the Chiefs in Week 11, the Seahawks have won six straight games and allowed 6.5 points per game. Talk about ending the season the right way.|
|The Patriots finish as the No. 1 seed in the AFC. They've made the Super Bowl three out of four times when seeded first under Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.|
|Aaron Rodgers being carted off the field in Week 17 was scary. So was him going 11-of-13 with a passing touchdown and a rushing touchdown after he returned from injury.|
|C.J. Anderson could be the Broncos' key for a deep playoff run. Anderson leads the NFL in rushing yards (648) and rushing touchdowns (8) since Week 12.|
|Emmitt Smith has rushed for more yards than anyone else in NFL history, but thanks to DeMarco Murray, he is no longer the Cowboys' single-season rushing leader.|
|Forget the Steel Curtain. In 2014, Ben Roethlisberger set a franchise record for passing yards, Antonio Brown set a franchise record for receiving yards and Le'Veon Bell set a franchise record for yards from scrimmage.|
|So the Lions lost in Green Bay; what else is new? Detroit still finished the season with its best record since 1991, which was also the last time it won a playoff game.|
|Andrew Luck became the eighth quarterback to throw at least 40 touchdown passes in a single season. Not bad for a 25-year-old.|
|The Bengals are in the playoffs for a fourth straight season, but can Andy Dalton finally break through? He's 0-3 with one passing touchdown, six interceptions and a 17.5 Total QBR in his playoff career.|
|The season isn't over yet, but it's hard not to look at what could have been. Carson Palmer went 6-0 as a starter this season but the Cardinals went 5-5 with Drew Stanton and Ryan Lindley starting.|
|Joe Flacco makes the big bucks, but the rushing game powers the Ravens. Baltimore went from 30th to eighth in rushing this season as it returns to the postseason.|
|The Eagles missed the playoffs but still won 10 games with a backup QB playing half the season and the team committing a league-high 36 turnovers.|
|The Chiefs missed the playoffs, but how about some love for Justin Houston? His 22 sacks are tied for second most since the stat became official in 1982.|
|J.J. Watt in 2014: 20.5 sacks, nine batted passes, four forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries, an interception, a safety, two defensive touchdowns and three offensive touchdowns.|
|Watch out for the Panthers. They won four straight to close the season, averaging 199.3 rushing yards and 10.8 points per game allowed in those games.|
|The Chargers finished the 2014 season with 348 points scored and 348 points allowed. They are the first team to finish the season with an even point differential since -- the 2012 Chargers.|
|The Bills finished 9-7, their first winning season since 2004. That's progress, but they still have the longest active playoff drought (1999).|
|The 49ers went 44-19-1 in four seasons with Jim Harbaugh as head coach. The 49ers won 46 games in the eight seasons prior to acquiring Harbaugh.|
|Stuck in no-man's-land? The Dolphins haven't finished worse than 6-10 in the past six seasons but they haven't finished better than 8-8, either.|
|How about this for hope? Teddy Bridgewater threw a passing touchdown in each of his last 10 games. Only Drew Brees has a longer active streak with a passing touchdown (36 games).|
|The Saints allowed 120 more points and 1,253 more yards in 2014 than they did in 2013. They'll need to fix the defense fast as Drew Brees will be 36 to start 2015.|
|Is it Groundhog Day in St. Louis? Another losing season for the Rams and the franchise is still wondering if Sam Bradford is "the guy."|
|The Browns finished the season 1-6 after starting 6-3. Browns quarterbacks combined for two touchdowns and 12 interceptions over the last seven games.|
|Odell Beckham Jr. had 1,305 receiving yards in just 12 games this season. That's the most receiving yards by a player in his first 12 games in NFL history.|
|The Mike Smith era is over. Although he was a defensive-minded coach, the Falcons allowed a league-high 388.8 yards per game the past two seasons.|
|Marc Trestman is out after two seasons. No coach in Bears history had a defense allow more points per game than Trestman (28.8).|
|Rex Ryan was ultimately done in by his quarterbacks. The Jets ranked 29th with a 35.6 Total QBR during the Ryan era, finishing 30th or worse in each of the last three seasons.|
|Robert Griffin III had just four touchdown passes on 214 pass attempts in 2014. Griffin had two games with four touchdown passes in his rookie year.|
|Cut the Raiders some slack. They played a league-high 13 games against teams that finished .500 or better in 2014, going 3-10 in those games.|
|Blake Bortles in 2014: 3-10 W-L, 11-17 TD-Int and a 21.9 Total QBR. Blaine Gabbert in his rookie year: 4-10 W-L, 12-11 TD-Int and a 19.1 Total QBR.|
|The Buccaneers blew a 13-point fourth-quarter lead Sunday to clinch the No. 1 pick in the 2015 draft. The Bucs were 72-2 when leading by 13-plus to start the fourth previously.|
|The Titans beat the Chiefs 26-10 in Kansas City in Week 1. They then proceeded to lose 14 of their last 15 games, including 10 straight to end the season.|