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NFL Power Rankings - Week 14: Players who must step up down the stretch

Photo illustration by Julian Catalfo / theScore

The NFL Power Rankings are selected by a panel of theScore's football editors.

This week, we highlight one player for every team who needs to step up in the season's final stretch.

1. San Francisco 49ers (9-3)

Mitchell Leff / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Previous rank: 5

While Chase Young's arrival has helped free up Nick Bosa, the former No. 2 pick needs to ramp up his pass-rushing production if he's to help San Francisco win a Super Bowl and earn himself a big payday in 2024.

2. Baltimore Ravens (9-3)

Previous rank: 2

With Mark Andrews unlikely to play again this year, Isaiah Likely will need to step up at tight end. He posted a combined four catches for 40 yards over the last two games despite playing over 70% of snaps in those contests - and that includes being blanked in Week 11.

3. Philadelphia Eagles (10-2)

Previous rank: 1

The Eagles need high-priced cornerback Darius Slay to step up given the lack of talent surrounding him in the secondary. Philadelphia is paying him to be a top-20 cornerback, and the veteran hasn't played up to those standards.

4. Dallas Cowboys (9-3)

Previous rank: 3

Brandin Cooks has been vital to the Cowboys' offense recently, but the team could use Michael Gallup to help elevate the unit. Gallup has the eighth-highest cap hit on the roster in 2023 but only has 357 yards on 28 catches.

5. Kansas City Chiefs (8-4)

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Previous rank: 4

Hear us out, Swifties. Travis Kelce has been good this season, but he hasn't played up to his Hall of Fame-level standards. And with the Chiefs' wideout group continuing to underperform, solid-but-not-great just won't cut it from Kelce if a second straight title is to happen.

6. Miami Dolphins (9-3)

Previous rank: 6

De'Von Achane has been electric when healthy, but the 22-year-old has only played in six games this year. If he can stay on the field and produce to his standards, Miami's offense will be tough to stop in the playoffs.

7. Detroit Lions (9-3)

Previous rank: 8

Jack Campbell, the second of Detroit's 2023 first-rounders, hasn't been bad this year, but a bigger impact would help the defense tremendously. The No. 18 pick had his best game in Week 13, racking up nine total tackles (two for loss) while playing at his natural middle linebacker spot.

8. Houston Texans (7-5)

Previous rank: 9

Star rookie Tank Dell is out for the season with a fractured fibula, which is a significant blow to the Texans' offense and playoff chances. Houston will hope John Metchie - who's been a nonfactor this year with only 138 yards - can take the chance to break out.

9. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-4)

Previous rank: 7

Assuming Trevor Lawrence will miss some time with a high ankle sprain, the Jaguars will need backup quarterback C.J. Beathard to rise to the occasion if the club is to hold off the Colts and Texans. Both teams sit one game back from Jacksonville in the AFC South.

10. Green Bay Packers (6-6)

Stacy Revere / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Previous rank: 15

Lukas Van Ness, the No. 13 pick in the 2023 draft, hasn't contributed much to this point. He has just two sacks and hasn't played more than 49% of the team's defensive snaps in any contest.

11. Denver Broncos (6-6)

Previous rank: 10

When the Broncos ask too much of Russell Wilson, bad things happen, so running back Javonte Williams - who doesn't have a single rushing touchdown or game over 85 yards this season - needs to carry some of the load.

12. Buffalo Bills (6-6)

Previous rank: 11

Quarterback Josh Allen has accounted for 76% of Buffalo's total yards on offense this season. They could do with running back James Cook stepping up his game on the ground.

13. Los Angeles Rams (6-6)

Previous rank: 17

Cooper Kupp had 266 yards in his first two games after missing the first month with a hamstring but somehow has only 166 yards in the six contests since. A knee injury has hampered him, but the Rams need more from their superstar wideout.

14. Cleveland Browns (7-5)

Previous rank: 12

Elijah Moore hasn't been bad since joining Cleveland in the offseason, but the Ole Miss product has scored just one touchdown, and No. 1 option Amari Cooper could miss games after entering concussion protocol.

15. Seattle Seahawks (6-6)

Michael Owens / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Previous rank: 14

Geno Smith has been a roller-coaster ride this season, making elite-level throws one second before committing back-breaking turnovers the next. While the quarterback's aggressive mindset drives the Seahawks' offense, he has to pick his spots better to get his team back on track.

16. Indianapolis Colts (7-5)

Previous rank: 18

Jonathan Taylor could reportedly miss up to five weeks, so backup Zack Moss - who starred early in the year with Taylor sidelined - could be key to Indianapolis' chances of securing a wild-card spot.

17. Minnesota Vikings (6-6)

Previous rank: 16

Justin Jefferson will need to play at his elite level upon his return from the hamstring injury that's sidelined him since Week 5 to overcome Minnesota's quarterback play and keep its playoff hopes alive.

18. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5)

Previous rank: 13

Kenny Pickett is reportedly expected to miss two-to-four weeks with the ankle injury he sustained in Week 13, leaving Pittsburgh's playoff hopes in the hands of Mitchell Trubisky.

19. Atlanta Falcons (6-6)

Previous rank: 19

Stop us if you've heard this before, but the Falcons need to get Kyle Pitts more involved. The NFC South is there for the taking, and the tight end could be the difference between a playoff berth and sitting at home come January.

20. Cincinnati Bengals (6-6)

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Previous rank: 22

Tee Higgins has missed multiple games with injury and produced a career-low 46.9 yards per game. The 24-year-old will need to ball out to keep the Bengals' wild-card hopes alive - and to get paid by someone in free agency this summer.

21. Los Angeles Chargers (5-7)

Previous rank: 21

Quentin Johnston has been among the most disappointing rookies in the NFL, failing to step up for Mike Williams and looking consistently overwhelmed. If the Chargers are to make an unlikely playoff run, the young receiver has to quickly find his feet.

22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-7)

Previous rank: 24

Mike Evans has shouldered too much of the Bucs' passing attack, with Chris Godwin seemingly not playing up to his usual standards. His production has been solid - 53 receptions for 606 yards - but not worth his $20-million average salary.

23. Las Vegas Raiders (5-7)

Previous rank: 23

Rookie tight end Michael Mayer has flashed potential, and with the Raiders' playoff hopes almost extinguished, the team's focus now turns to developing its young players. Mayer should see an increased workload down the stretch and could establish himself as one of the offense's building blocks.

24. New Orleans Saints (5-7)

Previous rank: 20

Derek Carr is out once again after suffering his second concussion within the last month, along with multiple other injuries. The Saints might want to consider shutting him down considering the danger of a third concussion, but even if he returns at some point, Jameis Winston will play a major role in how New Orleans' season pans out.

25. Arizona Cardinals (3-10)

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Previous rank: 30

With receiver Michael Wilson sidelined with a shoulder injury, the Cardinals need more from third-year pro Rondale Moore, who has eight games with two catches or fewer this season.

26. Tennessee Titans (4-8)

Previous rank: 25

The Titans' season is all but over after an overtime loss to the Colts, so the development of Will Levis into the unquestioned starter for 2024 is one of the only things that matter.

27. Chicago Bears (4-8)

Previous rank: 26

Justin Fields could be auditioning for other teams with the No. 1 pick all but locked up for the Bears via the Panthers, but balling out could also convince Chicago's front office to pass on a signal-caller and surround Fields with more talent instead.

28. New York Jets (4-8)

Previous rank: 27

The Jets could do with first-round rookie Will McDonald showing something down the stretch. He only has seven tackles and one forced fumble in 12 games this season.

29. New York Giants (4-8)

Previous rank: 28

Saquon Barkley is scheduled to become a free agent this offseason, and it's uncertain if the Giants will lock him up long term. He's only averaging 4.2 yards per carry this season and hasn't looked like the star rusher we are accustomed to.

30. Washington Commanders (4-9)

Greg Fiume / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Previous rank: 29

Emmanuel Forbes, the Commanders' first-round pick, has disappointed in his rookie campaign. He's allowed 490 yards and three touchdowns on 42 targets this season.

31. Carolina Panthers (1-11)

Previous rank: 32

At this stage of a hugely disappointing rookie season, Bryce Young just needs to start showing an occasional flash of the talent that made him the No. 1 pick, anything to make the Panthers feel hopeful about a turnaround in 2024.

32. New England Patriots (2-10)

Previous rank: 31

The Patriots are in signal-caller hell right now. They have 418 passing yards combined over their last three games, with the team scoring 13 points during that stretch. Would any quarterback please step up?

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