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NFL Week 13 Power Rankings: Toughest game ahead for all 32 teams

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Hasselbeck has Panthers outside of top 10 (0:52)

Tim Hasselbeck explains why the Panthers are out of the top 10 of his power rankings as well as why the Colts and Cowboys are trending up. (0:52)

We're down to the final five weeks of the regular season. Much is still undecided, whether it's playoff seeding for contenders or draft-pick slotting for those already looking to 2019.

In the Week 13 edition of the Power Rankings, our NFL Nation reporters break down the most difficult remaining test for each club. We also have every team's projected win total, according to ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI).

How we rank: Our power panel -- a group of more than 80 writers, editors and TV personalities -- evaluated how teams stack up through the first 12 weeks of the season.

Previous rankings: 12 | 11 | 10 | 9 | 8 | 7 | 6 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | Preseason

1. New Orleans Saints (10-1)

Projected wins: 13.6 | Week 12 rank: 1

Toughest game left: Week 15 at Carolina. This kicks off a difficult two-game stretch for the Saints. First they have to play at their division rivals on Monday Night Football in potentially cold weather. Then they have to turn around on a short week and host the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 16. The Panthers (6-5) have fallen on hard times lately, but that could make them all the more desperate to salvage their playoff hopes when the Saints come to town. -- Mike Triplett

2. Los Angeles Rams (10-1)

Projected wins: 13.9 | Week 12 rank: 2

Toughest game left: Week 14 at Chicago. The Rams are 10-1, and after a big win over the Chiefs, it seems improbable that they'll drop a game the rest of the way. However, the Bears -- who have won five straight -- will present a challenge. Their defense ranks fourth in yards allowed per game with 316 and is third in points allowed with an average of 19.2. The Rams proved that they could win in cold weather when they defeated the Broncos in October. However, that might not compare to Soldier Field in December in a prime-time game. -- Lindsey Thiry

3. Kansas City Chiefs (9-2)

Projected wins: 12.7 | Week 12 rank: 3

Toughest game left: Week 16 at Seattle. The Chiefs, who have won 19 of their past 20 games against AFC West opponents, have three division games remaining. They also have a game against the Ravens at Arrowhead Stadium, where the Chiefs are 5-0 with an average margin of victory of 16.2 points. That leaves a road game against the Seahawks, who have a rushing attack that could give the Chiefs fits. -- Adam Teicher

4. New England Patriots (8-3)

Projected wins: 11.5 | Week 12 rank: 5

Toughest game left: Week 15 at Pittsburgh. It's the easy choice, even though a tough Vikings team comes to town Sunday, and a trip to Miami (Dec. 9) is always a challenge for the team. Not only is Patriots-Steelers the toughest remaining game on the schedule, but with Pittsburgh eyeing revenge for last season's defeat, it also could play a big part in whether the Patriots earn a playoff bye. -- Mike Reiss

5. Los Angeles Chargers (8-3)

Projected wins: 11.0 | Week 12 rank: 7

Toughest game left: Week 15 at Kansas City. While the Chargers (8-3) are solidly in the playoffs right now, they're only a game behind Kansas City (9-2) in the AFC West standings. However, the Bolts have lost nine straight against the Chiefs. The Chargers have to figure out a way to limit turnovers and stop Kansas City's explosive offense led by Patrick Mahomes if they want to overtake the Chiefs in the AFC West. -- Eric Williams

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6. Chicago Bears (8-3)

Projected wins: 10.7 | Week 12 rank: 6

Toughest game left: Week 14 vs. Los Angeles Rams. The Bears still have important divisional games left on the schedule against the Packers and Vikings, but Chicago's upcoming matchup with the Rams -- flexed to Sunday night -- pits one of the league's best offenses (Los Angeles) against the NFL's top defensive unit (Bears). This could be a playoff preview. A victory over the Rams would convince those still reluctant to embrace the Bears' turnaround that Matt Nagy's team is for real. -- Jeff Dickerson

7. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3-1)

Projected wins: 10.1 | Week 12 rank: 4

Toughest game left: Week 16 at New Orleans. The Saints are the league's hottest team and have averaged 41.8 points per game in their past four Superdome games. The Steelers will be coming off an emotional matchup with the Patriots in Week 15 and will most likely need this victory to keep the dream of a first-round playoff bye alive. -- Jeremy Fowler

8. Houston Texans (8-3)

Projected wins: 11.3 | Week 12 rank: 8

Toughest game left: Week 14 against red-hot Indianapolis. Houston's eight-game win streak began against Indianapolis after coach Frank Reich went for it on fourth down in Colts territory instead of punting, allowing the Texans to kick the winning field goal. The Texans came into the season with the easiest schedule, and four of their final six games are at home, but Indy should give them the toughest test the rest of the way. This is also perhaps the most important game because a victory against the Colts, who have won five in a row, would essentially clinch the AFC South for the Texans. -- Sarah Barshop

9. Minnesota Vikings (6-4-1)

Projected wins: 8.8 | Week 12 rank: 9

Toughest game left: Week 14 at Seattle. The Seahawks are experiencing a timely surge in the NFC playoff picture and will be chasing the Vikings for one of two wild-card spots. Russell Wilson is performing at an elite level and is always a nightmare to contain. Good thing Minnesota has had so much success rushing four linemen because Wilson has been lights out against defenses that send in an extra defender with a 13-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio against the blitz this season. On top of the personnel they'll need to scheme for, the Vikings will travel from one corner of the country to the other in back-to-back weeks after facing the Patriots on the road in Week 13. -- Courtney Cronin

10. Seattle Seahawks (6-5)

Projected wins: 9.4 | Week 12 rank: 11

Toughest game left: Week 16 vs. Kansas City. The Seahawks survived the toughest stretch of their season and have a favorable remaining schedule, with four of their final five at home and only two against winning teams. But one of them is the 9-2 Chiefs, whose offense with MVP candidate Patrick Mahomes will be a handful for a Seattle defense that just allowed 476 yards in a victory over Carolina. It will help if Kansas City manages to lock up the AFC's top seed by Week 15, in which case the Chiefs might have their foot off the gas by the time they come to CenturyLink Field. -- Brady Henderson

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11. Baltimore Ravens (6-5)

Projected wins: 8.5 | Week 12 rank: 13

Toughest game left: Week 14 at Kansas City. The Chiefs are one of three teams that are undefeated at home this season, and it hasn't been close at Arrowhead Stadium. Kansas City is 5-0 with a 16.2-point average margin of victory. If the Ravens could beat the Chiefs, it would go a long way in solidifying them as championship contenders. But Baltimore has only one road win in December since the start of the 2015 season. This is easily the Ravens' biggest remaining challenge. -- Jamison Hensley

12. Carolina Panthers (6-5)

Projected wins: 8.2 | Week 12 rank: 10

Toughest game left: Week 17 at New Orleans. The Saints are averaging 38 points at home and have scored 40 or more points four times in 2018. The Panthers have topped 36 points just once this season and are giving up way too many big plays defensively, as was evident again in a 30-27 loss to Seattle. The Panthers had no answer for Drew Brees & Co. last season, losing three times. -- David Newton

13. Indianapolis Colts (6-5)

Projected wins: 8.8 | Week 12 rank: 15

Toughest game left: Week 14 at Houston. The Colts can't afford to fall any further behind the Texans in the AFC South standings if they expect to maintain their slim hopes of winning the division. That matchup could feature the NFL's No. 2-ranked defense in Houston against the league's No. 8 offense in the Colts. -- Mike Wells

14. Dallas Cowboys (6-5)

Projected wins: 8.7 | Week 12 rank: 16

Toughest game left: Week 13 vs. New Orleans. The Cowboys feel good about themselves with a three-game win streak that has them in first place in the NFC East. But the Saints have won 10 games in a row and bring to AT&T Stadium a dynamic offense that can beat Dallas with the running game, the short passing game and big plays. This is by far the most varied attack the Cowboys have seen all season, and the defense will need some help from the offense in terms of controlling the tempo of the game. In 2009, the Cowboys played an undefeated Saints team and left the Superdome with a victory that helped lead them to the playoffs. A win Thursday could do the same for the 2018 Cowboys. -- Todd Archer

15. Washington Redskins (6-5)

Projected wins: 8.2 | Week 12 rank: 14

Toughest game left: Week 13 at Philadelphia. The Redskins still have road games at Tennessee and Jacksonville, but those won't mean a whole lot if Washington can't win Monday night at the Eagles. Philly is always a tough place to play, and after beating the Giants, the Eagles are only a game out of first place in the NFC East. That means this will be a huge game for the Eagles in what should be a hostile environment. The Redskins are dealing with injuries but are still tied for first. They can rightly project a nine-win season with a victory Monday -- and that might be good enough for a playoff berth. -- John Keim

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16. Green Bay Packers (4-6-1)

Projected wins: 7.5 | Week 12 rank: 12

Toughest game left: Week 15 at Chicago. Yes, the Packers have been dominant at Soldier Field, winning eight consecutive games there. But things are different now. The Bears are on top of the NFC North, and the Packers are reeling. The Bears will be favorites in that game in large part because the Packers haven't won on the road this season. By the time they get to Chicago on Dec. 16, it will have been more than a year since their most recent road win. They might have a little renewed confidence if they win the next two weekends at home against the Cardinals and Falcons, but that will do nothing to scare off their demons on the road. -- Rob Demovsky

17. Tennessee Titans (5-6)

Projected wins: 7.9 | Week 12 rank: 17

Toughest game left: Week 17 vs. Indianapolis. Two of the next five games for the Titans come against teams with winning records. The toughest game will be against their AFC South rivals with a wild-card spot possibly on the line. The Colts have beaten Tennessee 10 consecutive times with Andrew Luck under center. Luck had 297 yards passing and threw three touchdown passes against the Titans in a 38-10 blowout in Week 11. The Titans will need to break the winless streak against Luck if they plan to make a playoff appearance this season. -- Turron Davenport

18. Philadelphia Eagles (5-6)

Projected wins: 7.2 | Week 12 rank: 18

Toughest game left: Week 15 at Los Angeles Rams. Simply put, the Rams are one of the best teams in football. They're scoring an average of 35 points per game -- two touchdowns more than the Eagles' average (21). Adding to the intrigue is that Carson Wentz returns to the Coliseum, where last year's season-ending ACL/LCL tear occurred. -- Tim McManus

19. Denver Broncos (5-6)

Projected wins: 7.9 | Week 12 rank: 22

Toughest game left: Week 17 vs. Los Angeles Chargers. The Broncos just edged the Chargers 23-22 on a Brandon McManus field goal as time expired in Week 11. If things go as the Broncos hope -- their next four opponents are a combined 13-30-1 -- and they get some wins over the next month, that season-ender could mean something for them. -- Jeff Legwold

20. Atlanta Falcons (4-7)

Projected wins: 6.7 | Week 12 rank: 20

Toughest game left: Week 14 at Green Bay. Beside the fact that the defense has to contend with Aaron Rodgers, being outdoors in the cold at Lambeau Field probably won't help Matt Ryan and the Falcons' offense. -- Vaughn McClure

21. Miami Dolphins (5-6)

Projected wins: 6.8 | Week 12 rank: 21

Toughest game left: Week 15 at Minnesota. Minnesota looks like a bad matchup for Miami, which will have trouble scoring against a Vikings defense that ranks in the top five in total defense, pass defense and run defense. Miami also ranks in the bottom five in run defense, which won't bode well for trying to stop Dalvin Cook. Following home games against the Bills and Patriots, the Dolphins might need a road victory against the Vikings to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. -- Cameron Wolfe

22. Cincinnati Bengals (5-6)

Projected wins: 6.9 | Week 12 rank: 19

Toughest game left: Week 14 at Los Angeles Chargers. With the way the season is going, things might be over by the time the Bengals go to Pittsburgh in Week 17, which makes their road game against the Chargers loom large. The Bengals' defense was dominated by the Browns, so it's hard to imagine that the unit will fare much better against Philip Rivers. -- Katherine Terrell

23. Cleveland Browns (4-6-1)

Projected wins: 5.6 | Week 12 rank: 25

Toughest game left: Week 13 at Houston. The Texans have won eight in a row after an 0-3 start. Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins and J.J. Watt are a potent trio. The Browns have made progress against some of the lower-ranked defenses the past few games, but against Houston they face the league's sixth-ranked defense on the road. -- Pat McManamon

24. Detroit Lions (4-7)

Projected wins: 5.8 | Week 12 rank: 24

Toughest game left: Week 13 vs. Los Angeles Rams. The Lions have actually played well against some of the tougher teams on their schedule (New England, Chicago at home), but the Rams feel like something different. Detroit hasn't faced an offense that talented all season, and it's tough to see a way for the Lions to keep pace. The Rams have scored 29 or more points every game. The Lions have done that just twice: Week 5 against Green Bay and Week 7 against Miami. Without Marvin Jones (who is now on injured reserve), it is going to be that much harder for the Lions to keep up. -- Michael Rothstein

25. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-8)

Projected wins: 5.1 | Week 12 rank: 23

Toughest game left: Week 14 at Tennessee. The Titans have won five of the past six meetings, including a 9-6 victory at Jacksonville in Week 3. The Titans have an offensive line that can handle the Jaguars' defensive front (though that's not rare this season) and have won the line of scrimmage in the past five meetings. Given the state of the Jaguars' O-line due to injuries, it's going to be tough for them to move the ball on the ground, and that's pretty much all they have on offense now. -- Mike DiRocco

26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7)

Projected wins: 5.6 | Week 12 rank: 27

Toughest game left: Week 14 vs. the New Orleans. Yep, the Buccaneers beat the Saints 48-40 at the Superdome in Week 1 -- the Saints' only loss this season -- but statistically, the Saints just aren't a good September team (5-12 the past five seasons), and they always hit their stride. The Bucs aren't putting up the same electrifying numbers they did with FitzMagic the first three weeks of the season, and their defense, which has been without all three starting linebackers and saw just one starter from the defensive backfield play Sunday, is allowing opponents to score more than 30 points per game. -- Jenna Laine

27. New York Giants (3-8)

Projected wins: 5.2 | Week 12 rank: 26

Toughest game left: Week 13 vs. Chicago. That isn't a good matchup for an offensive line that has trouble protecting and a quarterback who can't move. The Bears are sixth in the NFL with 34 sacks. They have Khalil Mack. Good luck to the Giants trying to block him. -- Jordan Raanan

28. Buffalo Bills (4-7)

Projected wins: 6.4 | Week 12 rank: 28

Toughest game left: Week 16 at New England. There is zero doubt about this game being the hardest for Buffalo, which has won only twice at Gillette Stadium since it opened in 2002: the 2014 season finale, when Tom Brady did not play the second half, and Week 4 of 2016, when Jacoby Brissett started in place of a suspended Brady and an injured Jimmy Garoppolo. The Bills were tied with the Patriots 13-13 at halftime of last season's trip but lost 37-16. -- Mike Rodak

29. New York Jets (3-8)

Projected wins: 4.2 | Week 12 rank: 29

Toughest game left: Week 17 at New England. They're all difficult when you've lost five straight and have a 21.5 percent chance of losing out, per ESPN data, but the absolute toughest will be the season finale. Aside from the obvious reason -- good team versus bad team -- the Jets have dropped seven straight on the road in this series. In all likelihood, it will be Todd Bowles' final game as coach. -- Rich Cimini

30. San Francisco 49ers (2-9)

Projected wins: 3.5 | Week 12 rank: 30

Toughest game left: Week 13 at Seattle. Every week is a difficult matchup for the Niners in their current state, but they haven't beaten the Seahawks in Seattle since 2011 and haven't beaten them at all since 2012. The Seahawks are surging into playoff contention, and the Niners are reeling with injuries all over the roster. The final weekend against the Rams would be a more obvious choice, but there remains a possibility (though far from a certainty) that the Rams' playoff seeding will be wrapped up by then and they will rest their starters, as they did in Week 17 last season. -- Nick Wagoner

31. Oakland Raiders (2-9)

Projected wins: 3.1 | Week 12 rank: 31

Toughest game left: Week 13 vs. Kansas City. With the Raiders giving up an NFL-worst 6.5 yards per play, the Chiefs averaging an NFL-best 7.0 yards per play and Oakland facing its AFC West brethren two times in the final five weeks, things could get ugly in a hurry. True, this weekend's game is in Oakland, where the Raiders have defeated Kansas City twice in the past four seasons (as opposed to going 0-4 at Arrowhead Stadium in that time), but when they meet in the season finale, the Chiefs might be resting their regulars for the playoffs. -- Paul Gutierrez

32. Arizona Cardinals (2-9)

Projected wins: 2.8 | Week 12 rank: 32

Toughest game left: All of them. Seriously. The Cardinals are 2-9 and have been competitive recently against the 49ers and Raiders -- the NFL's other two-win teams. But every game will be tough for the Cardinals from here on out, even though their next three opponents -- the Packers, Lions and Falcons -- have been struggling of late. The Cards finish the season at home against the currently 10-1 Rams and at the surging Seahawks. -- Josh Weinfuss