|WEEI NFL Power Rankings — Week 14||12.08.09 at 12:42 am ET|
All Saints Day came this past Sunday for Who Dat? nation. New Orleans pulled off an unimaginable comeback win and remain the NFL’s cream of the crop. For the ninth straight week, the Saints own the No. 1 spot and the Colts are No. 2 in WEEI’s NFL Power Rankings. The teams in this week’s top five stay the same — however, the Chargers jumped ahead of the Bengals one spot after their seventh straight win.
The Patriots dropped to their lowest spot all year after another poor second-half performance against the Dolphins. Tom Brady and crew sit at No. 12 and hope to bounce back at home Sunday against a poor Carolina team. The Patriots have been terrible on the road, and with that loss to Miami they’ve all but eliminated themselves from getting a first-round bye.
As for some other notables, the Super Bowl XLIII champion Steelers plummet two more spots and now are looking up from No. 15.
Eli Manning and the New York Giants made the biggest jump and enter the top 10 at No. 9 after a huge NFC East win against the Cowboys. The Giants will face another division foe when the Eagles visit the Meadowlands Sunday night.
1. (Last week, 1) 12-0 Unbelievable win for the Saints, as they continue to cruise toward the playoffs. They have intelligent players that continue to make big plays. Robert Meachem‘s strip and return for a touchdown is the type of play you only see on Super Bowl teams. Patriots fans have seen this before, and Saints fans are witnessing this now.
2. (2) 12-0 The Colts can soon start preparing for the postseason. It will be interesting to see if they decide to rest their players once they clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Historically they have done so under Tony Dungy, but now the decision lies in the hands of Jim Caldwell.
3. (3) 10-2 The Vikings lacked a balanced offense because their run game was nonexistent. I wouldn’t count on Adrian Peterson having that type of performance ever again. However, the Vikings are still one of the best teams in the NFL despite the loss to Arizona.
4. (5) 9-3 Every year this happens with the Chargers. It’s like clockwork. Seven straight wins and there is no slowing down. The showdown for the No. 2 seed in the AFC is just two weeks away when the Bengals travel to San Diego to face off for that first-round bye.
5. (4) 9-3 After receiving an early Christmas gift on the schedule by getting the Lions in December, the Bengals have their work cut out for them the next two weeks when they travel to Minnesota and San Diego.
6. (7) 8-4 The Cardinals offense is one of the best in the league, but their defense has to get some props for its performance against the Vikings. Arizona’s D held Adrian Peterson to just 19 yards rushing — not too many teams can hold Peterson to 100 yards rushing.
7. (9) 8-4 Awesome to watch Michael Vick get into the end zone in Atlanta. The Eagles have a tough stretch their last four games — they’ll face the Giants in New York, the Broncos, the 49ers, and the Cowboys in Dallas.
8. (10) 8-4 Green Bay is in a great position to earn a wild card playoff berth, but the Packers have to run the ball better to balance their offense and eliminate penalties — especially on defense. Aaron Rodgers has played great of late and the Packers can be a tough team to beat in the NFC if Rodgers continues to play at a high level and gets some protection from his line.
9. (17) 7-5 A win against the Eagles on Sunday will put the G-Men in the driver’s seat for the NFC title because they’ll have the best division record in the NFC East. A loss will group them in a cluster of NFC teams fighting for a playoff spot.
10. (8) 8-4 The Cowboys get criticized every year in December, and if they want to prove their doubters wrong, this would be the season to do it. They’ll face the Chargers, who get better in December, and the Saints, who haven’t lost a game all year.
11. (11) 8-4 The Broncos have great depth at the halfback position with Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter, and they complement Brandon Marshall and the receivers well. Denver will face its toughest test all year when it travels to Indianapolis on Sunday.
12. (6) 7-5 Terrible play-calling, the inability to score in the red zone, and a mediocre pass rush are just a few reasons why the Patriots are clinging to the AFC East lead.
13. (16) 7-5 Four wins in their last five games has the Jaguars in the playoff picture. The Jags controls their own destiny. However, they’ll face three straight playoff-caliber teams down the stretch.
14. (13) 6-6 No excuses for the Steelers in their embarrassing loss to the Raiders. It is tough to believe this team is the defending Super Bowl champion. The Steelers are lacking intensity and that championship swagger we saw last year.
15. (14) 6-6 Joe Flacco is a solid young quarterback, but he obviously needs to make better decisions on the field. His decision to throw the ball across his body on second-and-goal is a mistake even rookies shouldn’t make. Fourth-quarter interceptions eliminate your team’s chances of winning, and Flacco threw two on Monday night.
16. (12) 5-7 We finally saw Vince Young make a few bad decisions in the loss to the Colts, but I believe the Titans still will finish the season strong and end 2009 proud of the way they played in the second half of the season.
17. (20) 6-6 With a little help, the Dolphins have a chance of winning the division with a 4-2 record in the AFC East. However, the Wildcat just isn’t the same without Ronnie Brown.
18. (15) 6-6 The Falcons desperately need Matt Ryan to return if they want to make the playoffs. Atlanta is a loss away from missing the playoffs this year, because nine wins won’t get the job done in the NFC.
19. (21) 6-6 Slide, Sanchez, slide! The growing pains continue in New York for rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez. The Jets are in the playoff hunt but can’t afford any more losses — and they still have to face the Colts and the Bengals.
20. (18) 5-7 The Texans showed a lot of promise this season, but their playoff hopes are all but dashed. Their inconsistency and inability to close games killed them this year.
21. (19) 5-7 Alex Smith is showing signs he can be a solid QB in the NFL. Great performance by Smith turning in the first 300-yard performance of his career Sunday.
22. (22) 5-7 When a team has lost four straight, the Rams are the best medicine. The Bears finally got a win but played sloppy. This type of performance against stronger teams won’t get them a win like it did on Sunday.
23. (24) 3-9 The Redskins were just one chip-shot field goal away of doing what no team this year has been able to do — beat the Saints. It should come as no surprise that the ‘Skins will be working out kickers this week in Washington.
24. (23) 4-8 The Bills had a chance to win their game against the Jets, and that’s all they can really ask for right now. The defeat marked their 10th straight loss in a prime-time game. Buffalo’s last win on nationwide TV was back in 2001.
25. (25) 5-7 This time the Panthers were the ones catching the interceptions, not throwing them. The result was a win. I’m sticking to my prediction that Jake Delhomme won’t play the rest of the season.
26. (26) 5-7 Great performance by Matt Hasselbeck for a team that is finally starting to get healthy. The Seahawks are enjoying their first two-game winning streak this year.
28. (27) 3-9 Matt Cassel was just 10-for-29 against the Broncos. Cassel has looked like a backup quarterback for most of the year, and it will be interesting to see what the future holds for the former Patriot.
29. (29) 1-11 The Rams have a couple of things to be encouraged about going into the offseason. Steven Jackson is a young elite playmaker in the NFL and Chris Long is starting to show signs of becoming a dominant player.
30. (31) 2-10 The franchise quarterback has been beat up pretty hard this year. Detroit needs to figure out a way to protect Matthew Stafford before he suffers a more serious injury.
31. (30) 1-11 Five interceptions in one game is a great learning experience for the Bucs young quarterback Josh Freeman. He is learning and will have a good career.
32. (32) 1-11 The Browns lost their 10th straight home game on Sunday but did show some signs of life. A 16-point fourth quarter and just a seven-point loss to the Chargers should be something Cleveland fans are proud of.
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