NFL Power Rankings: Cardinals rise, Packers fall in Week 17

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Dec 27, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) celebrates his touchdown with Jake Matthews (70) in the second quarter against the Carolina Panthers at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports


Last week: 22
Change: +6

The Carolina Panthers had rolled past 14 opponents this season and had won 18 consecutive regular season games, two of which came against the Atlanta Falcons. They had taken down the Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers and everyone else in sight this year, until now.

The team to finally take them down was the one the Panthers hammered 38-0 two weeks ago. The Atlanta Falcons, who seemed to be in free fall after beginning a six-game losing streak in Week 8, have now won two straight, and finally handed Cam Newton’s team a loss.

The postseason dream is no more in Atlanta. It officially ended when the Vikings put away the Giants on Sunday Night Football, but realistically there wasn’t any hope. But Dan Quinn’s team is up to eight wins, and will avoid a losing season for the first time since 2012. If they can defeat the New Orleans Saints next week, the Falcons will finish with a winning record, and that’s a step in the right direction.

Vic Beasley came up with the game-clinching play. Beasley has had an up-and-down year as a rookie, but he was able to sack Newton and knock the ball out, which was recovered by Adrian Clayborn.

Next: No. 15