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WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 7

10.19.10 at 12:02 pm ET
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The Pittsburgh Steelers claim the throne in this week’s edition of the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. Led by Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers finally can improve their pass game and complement a defense that is allowing just 12 points per game. Moving on up into the top five are Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. After a thrilling overtime win at home against the Ravens, the Patriots proved they can win against the NFL’s best.

Making a big leap to No. 7 are the Philadelphia Eagles. Despite a looming quarterback controversy, the Eagles showed how dynamic their offense can be with either Kevin Kolb or Michael Vick behind center.

Falling out of the top 10 are the Green Bay Packers (No. 11) and Chicago Bears (No. 13). Injuries are piling up over at Lambeau Field and the Bears’ offensive line struggles continue to be a major problem.

Week 7 will feature some exciting NFC matchups that promise to cause some major ripple effects in the rankings. The Vikings are at Green Bay and the Giants are at Dallas.

1. (Last week, 3) 4-1 The Steelers are one of the most complete teams in the NFL right now. Ben Roethlisberger showed some rust in his return but also made some outstanding throws. Now, Pittsburgh has a passing offense to go along with their great run game and defense.

2. (2) 5-1 The Jets will go into their bye week after rattling off a very impressive five-game winning streak. Cornerback Darrelle Revis obviously isn’t healthy and could benefit greatly from the time off. One of the main keys to New York’s success through six games has been the play of a rejuvenated LaDainian Tomlinson. The 31-year-old running back leads a Jets running attack that ranks second in the NFL.

3. (6) 4-1 The Patriots defense was very impressive down the stretch in the fourth quarter and overtime. New England’s D was able to stop the Ravens on their final five drives. Bill Belichick said it was the best game his outside linebackers have played all year. Their win over the Ravens should definitely be a confidence booster going forward.

4. (1) 4-2 The Ravens just finished a tough stretch of games where they played New York, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and New England, all on the road. Now the Ravens can enjoy some games at home and should be able to bounce back from their loss to the Patriots. After the game, Ray Lewis was already looking forward to the next game when they take on the Bills at home saying, “It’s going to be rough on Buffalo.”

5. (5) 4-2 Plagued with injuries, it seems the Colts can overcome anything as long as they have No. 18 under center. Peyton Manning has been playing outstanding as usual. Indy is also able to rush the passer and is able to force mistakes with Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis on the ends.

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NFL exec Anderson: Meriweather’s hit ‘egregious,’ ‘flagrant’

10.19.10 at 11:24 am ET
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NFL executive vice president of football operations Ray Anderson, in an appearance on ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike Show, said that the hit by Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather on Baltimore tight end Todd Heap on Sunday was “flagrant” and “egregious,” and that the NFL would consider suspensions for such hits going forward.

“That in our view is something that was fragrant, that was egregious,” said Anderson. “Effective immediately, that’€™s going to be looked at at a very aggressive level, which would include suspension without pay. … What I would tell you is that if there are flagrant and egregious violations of our current rules, we will be enforcing, effective immediately, discipline at a higher level.”

Anderson said that the NFL will not be instituting any new rules about helmet-to-helmet hits or other shots taken at “defenseless players.” Instead, he said, there will be more rigorous enforcement of Rule 12, Section 2, Article 8 of the NFL Rule Book (for the complete rule, click here), with clarification of officials’ authority to eject players immediately for hits to the head of a defenseless player (including “launching” at a receiver in the act of catching a ball) and with the league issuing punishments “up to and including suspension for a game or multiple games.”

While Anderson made clear that players will be held to a “strict liability” standard for hits to the neck and head of defenseless players going forward, and that hits such as the one delivered by Meriweather against Heap would be subject to immediate discipline, he did not discuss what kind of punishment Meriweather will receive.

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Deion Branch talks to ESPN’s ‘First Take’ about his return to Patriots

10.19.10 at 1:27 am ET
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Deion Branch spent a good chunk of the day Monday talking to folks about his return to the Patriots, his nine-catch outing against the Ravens and what it all means. Check out the video of him chatting with ESPN’s “First Take” here:

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Junior Seau says he wasn’t attempting suicide

10.18.10 at 9:21 pm ET
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According to a report from TMZ, former Patriots linebacker Junior Seau told law enforcement that he was not trying to kill himself when he drove his Cadillac Escalade off a cliff in Carlsbad, Calif., on Monday morning.

Seau was arrested on Monday for allegedly assaulting his 25-year-old girlfriend, and claims that when his SUV went off a cliff hours later, it was as a result of him falling asleep behind the wheel. TMZ notes that there was no evidence of Seau, a 12-time Pro Bowl selection, being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, though the former linebacker’s blood was drawn, with results being expected within the next six weeks.

Brady lands at No. 21 on NFL’s Top 100 list

10.18.10 at 8:07 pm ET
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Not sure what people are going to think about the choice of presenter, but the NFL’s Top 100 (an outstanding series) has announced that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is No. 21 on their list. You can’t embed the video, but check out the segment on Brady here.

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Bill Belichick Q&A, 10/18

10.18.10 at 8:02 pm ET
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Thanks to the Patriots’€™ PR staff, here’€™s the complete transcript of today’€™s Q&A between Bill Belichick and the media:

BB: Well, it was certainly good to watch the game this morning knowing what the outcome was. It was really a hard-fought game going back and forth for 70 minutes, whatever it was, 73 minutes, however many it was. Good feeling to come out on top. The Ravens are a good football team. They did a lot of things well. I thought we just were fortunate to be able to make a couple more plays than they did and come out on top. As I said after the game, I think our captains in particular did a real good job of setting the pace and bringing some guys with them. The team practiced well. We went over a lot of situations that came up in the game. I think that helped us. Hopefully, we can build on this one, have another good week of practice and play well out in San Diego. It’€™s a real good football team. They’€™ve had a couple of disappointing losses, but you watch them on film, they’€™re real good on offense, defense, and also have a lot outstanding football players, well-coached. We know what it’€™s like to go out there and get hammered, what happened to us two years ago. They’€™re good. We have a lot of work to do to get ready for them this week.

Q: You mentioned the captains. Can you talk about the decision to make Alge Crumpler a captain?
BB: With Kevin [Faulk] being injured and Tom [Brady] really being the only other offensive captain, who’€™s a quarterback, that position is a  little different than all the others positions on the team. We just felt like it would be good to add somebody. We talked about it as a group, and felt like Alge would be a good choice.

Q: It seems like whenever the tight end group comes up Tom Brady is creating reasons to talk about Alge Crumpler and the impact he has had on this team. What does Alge bring?
BB: He’€™s very professional. Alge’€™s really smart. He’€™s into football. He works hard at it. He has a great presence. He’€™s one of those guys that just seems like he always does the right thing no matter what the situation is. Whether it’€™s in a game, in practice, in a meeting, in a walk through, whether it’€™s a decision on the play, whether it’€™s the way his demeanor is at that particular time, he knows when to smile, he knows when to be serious, he knows when to [step up], when to back off, when to gear it up, when to say and do the right thing. He’€™s constantly helping his teammates and making reminders to them or telling them what to do to help them work off of him and so forth. I guess I think the best way I can put it is it seems like he always does the right thing no matter what the situation is. On or off the field, in the locker room, meetings, practice, it just seems like he always does the right thing.

Q: You guys had five third down stops in the fourth quarter and overtime, and you used that same package. Had you shown that before? Is there something in the past that made you bring that up? Or what did you like particularly about that package?
BB: No, we’€™ve used that throughout the year, one defensive lineman, well not [Dane] Fletcher. He hasn’€™t played a lot. It’€™s the most plays that Dane’€™s had on defense. But we’€™ve used one defensive lineman and either five linebackers and five DBs or four linebackers and six DBs.

Q: What did you see from that package?
BB: We played a little better coverage a little bit differently than we did with our regular nickel package. So it was just a little changeup. This is why I don’€™t think it’€™s a real big thing. It worked well for us, don’€™t get me wrong, but it wasn’€™t like we recreated a defense or anything.
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Bill Belichick on The Big Show: ‘We have to play by the rules’

10.18.10 at 6:58 pm ET
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Patriots coach Bill Belichick made his weekly appearance on The Big Show Monday afternoon as part of WEEI’s Patriots Monday from Gillette Stadium. Belichick talked about the physical nature of Sunday’s win over the Ravens.

“It’s two physical teams, both teams playing hard, there was a lot at stake,” he said. “The game came right down the wire. It went 13 extra minutes. There were a lot of hard-hitting, tough plays by a lot of tough, hard-hitting football players. That’s the way it is. I think it was a physical game. I know we’ve got a lot of sore guys in our locker room. I’m sure they do today, too. I’m glad we were able to come out with three more points than they had.”

Following are highlights of the conversation, including Belichick’s thoughts on Brandon Meriweather‘s head-to-hit hit on Todd Heap and possible repercussions from the league. To hear the interview, go to The Big Show audio on demand page.

On the defense’s improvement in Sunday’s game:

I think the biggest thing was third down. We played better on third down in the second half, particularly in the fourth quarter. ‘€¦ Overall, I thought the players played hard. We made some adjustments.

On if there was any carryover of confidence from the Miami game:

I think it reinforced some things, probably, yeah. It’s a different game, and a whole different set of problems with Baltimore. But I think the  fact that we built on ‘€” we’ve kind of gotten a little bit better each week. Regardless of the stats or the score or anything else, I think just watching us play and coaching us, I feel like we’ve gotten better every week.

We’ve prepared a little bit better, we’ve executed a little bit better. We’re more aware of certain situations and things that come up in the game, even though they might only come up one time. And they might not come up at all. But when they do come up, we seem like we”re more on top of it and we anticipate it a little bit better. So, hopefully, we can continue doing that.

It was like the quarterback sneak on third-and-1. The players were on that, they were on that right away. The situation, they were alert for it, then they got the look. They jumped in there. Jermaine Cunningham was playing right end and he was all the way down on the guard on that play. So, there’s sometimes where those things ‘€” not that that situation happened in the Miami game, it didn’t ‘€” but just the awareness and the confidence to say, “I know what this is, I’m going to kind of not do so much of my responsibility because I know what this play is.” Just kind of play the play sometimes.

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