The Seattle Seahawks cemented their role as the top team in the NFL with a strong effort on Monday night. The game with the New Orleans Saints was billed as a preview of a possible NFC championship, but it was no contest at all. Seattle, fueled by the home crowd, dismantled the Saints on both sides of the ball.
Even with the loss, New Orleans remains in the top half of the power poll, but their strong season could be on thin ice in the coming weeks. However, if New Orleans gets right back on the winning track, they'll secure a home game for the divisional round. If the Saints start their first losing streak of the season, it's likely, they'll be hosting a wildcard game.
What hurts New Orleans more is that Seattle has a two game lead in the NFC with four games to play. New Orleans and Carolina have a real long shot at securing home field throughout the playoffs and they play each other twice in the final month.
Here are the updated NFL power rankings. You can also see the CBSSportsline.com NFL rankings. According to their updated rankings, Carolina is the fifth best team. It should be noted that Carolina has won eight games in a row.
1. Seattle Seaahawks: Russell Wilson has never lost a game at home with Seattle. He is now in strong consideration for NFL MVP. Their defense is number one in the NFL and the way they stymied New Orleans was impressive. They are currently on a seven game winning streak with a chance to win the division next week. Next game vs. San Francisco.
2. Carolina Panthers: The Panthers defense continues to be outstanding. They held the new and improved Bucs to six points, but they have the biggest game coming up on Sunday. Carolina has roared to eight straight victories. Next game vs. New Orleans.
3. New England Patriots: The Patriots are running away with the division, but their slow starts might come back to haunt them in the postseason. Back to back 34-31 wins are both impressive and scary. Next game vs. Cleveland.
4. Denver Broncos: The Broncos had a chance to shutdown the rest of the AFC, but their loss to New England kept the door ajar for the Patriots. Denver's comeback victory over Kansas City gave them a huge advantage in the AFC West. Next game vs. Tennessee.
5. New Orleans Saints: New Orleans ran into a buzz saw on Monday night. The 27 point loss was predictable in that Seattle atmosphere. Still, New Orleans has the opportunity to win the NFC South. It all starts on Sunday. Next game vs. Carolina.
6. San Francisco 49ers: Remember when San Francisco lost two games in a row. It happened twice. Otherwise, the 49ers have been one of the best teams in the league. They have a shot to make a bold statement at home next week. One more loss and San Francisco is playing for a wild card berth. Next game vs. Seattle.
7. Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles are second in rushing and seventh in passing this season. This has helped lead Philadelphia to four straight wins and a tie for the NFC East lead. Next game vs. Detroit.
8. Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals have a two game advantage over Baltimore in the AFC North. Cincinnati has a shot to earn a couple of home games in the postseason. Can Andy Dalton cut down on his turnovers in the final month? Next game vs. Indianapolis.
9. Kansas City Chiefs: Yes. The Chiefs have lost three straight games. Two of them were to Denver, so winning the AFC West is going to be a very tough task. The defense must get back to form and the receivers have to catch more passes when opportunities present itself. Next game vs. Washington.
10. Indianapolis Colts : The Colts didn't fall behind in Sunday's game, so they were able to pull out a hard fought victory. Indianapolis has split their last four games, but the defense just had their best defensive effort in over a month. Next game vs. Cincinnati.
11. Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys came through in the second half on the Thanksgiving Day game against the Raiders. December is the month that Tony Romo supposedly has his most problems and it's Christmas time. What will Dallas do down the stretch? Next game vs. Chicago.
12. Detroit Lions : The Lions finally got back in the win column, but it took playing a fourth string quarterback to do it. They should be running away with the NFC North this season. Instead, it looks like they'll be fighting for that crown all December. Next game vs. Philadelphia.