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WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 12

11.23.10 at 8:21 am ET
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The AFC East is the cream of the crop once again in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. The Patriots and Jets remain the top dogs for the second straight week. The division rivals are on a collision course to fight it out for first place when they face off in New England on Dec. 6.

For the first time this year, every team in the top five was victorious. In fact, eight of the top 10 teams came out of Week 11 with a win. Despite losing, the Colts (No. 9) and the Giants (10) stay put in their respective spots, keeping the top 10 intact.

Week 12 certainly will cause some major movement in the rankings. There are many marquee matchups ahead. The Packers (No. 7) will face the Falcons (3), the 7-3 Eagles (4) will face the 7-3 Bears (11), and the red-hot Chargers (12) will face the struggling Colts (9).

The Bengals plummet all the way to the No. 31 spot while the Panthers are getting comfortable at No. 32.

New England Patriots 1. (1) 8-2 We’re seeing typical Patriots football from the 2010 Pats. They take away what the opposing team does well and find a way to win each week. Last week, they held the potent Rashard Mendenhall to just 50 yards on the ground. In the win over the Colts, they made Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis non-factors. On defense, they are making big plays when needed most. The Pats have a total of 18 takeaways.

New York Jets2. (2) 8-2 In a league in which it is extremely difficult to win on the road, the Jets are 5-0 away from the Meadowlands. Surprisingly, the Jets offense has been the story of this team in 2010. The poise Mark Sanchez has shown in the past few weeks has been impressive. The second-year quarterback’s ability to win games in the closing minutes has to be something Jets fans are extremely pleased with.

3. (3) 8-2 Atlanta is in a three-way tie for the best record in the NFL. Offensively, it looks like the Falcons are getting into a good rhythm. They have an extremely balanced attack between the pass and run. Michael Turner rushed for 131 yards Sunday while Matt Ryan threw for 253 yards and two touchdowns.

4. (4) 7-3 That’s back-to-back division wins for the Eagles, who are in prime position to take the NFC East. Sunday night’s game showed that the offense isn’t the only unit on the team that can help win games. Philly’s D played great again. This is an extremely aggressive and opportunistic defense. On Sunday night the Eagles picked off Eli Manning three times and held him to a quarterback rating of 53.5.

5. (5) 7-3 The Ravens have learned getting Ray Rice the ball is one of the most important things they can do offensively. Rice had 65 yards on the ground and 66 receiving yards Sunday. On defense, the Ravens continue to hold their opponents to a low number of points. The Ravens allow an average of just 17.8-points per game.

Pittsburgh Steelers 6. (6) 7-3 As expected, the Steelers bounced back nicely after a poor effort at home last week. The Steel Curtain’s pass rush dominated the Raiders offensive line. The Steelers constantly put pressure on the quarterback and finished the game with six sacks.

Green Bay Packers7. (7) 7-3 The Packers are enjoying a nice four-game winning streak after a sluggish first half of the season. They’re playing extremely well on both sides of the ball. In the past three games, they have outscored their opponents 85-10.

New Orleans Saints8. (8) 7-3 After a slow start, the Drew Brees-Marques Colston connection is starting to pick it up. Colston has four touchdown grabs in the past four games. The run game also performed well behind running back Chris Ivory. We all know how dangerous the Saints offense can be when Colston and Brees are on the same page and they have a running game to complement their passing attack. Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas are on the verge of returning.

9. (9) 6-4 The lack of a run game has really hurt Peyton Manning and the Colts. Offensively, it looks like injuries are finally catching up with them. The troubles with the run defense don’t seem to be going away, either. The Patriots had 168 yards on the ground Sunday, and the Colts currently rank 30th against the run.

10. (10) 6-4 The Giants went into Sunday night’s game against the Eagles with a great defensive game plan but once again were killed by their turnovers. ”The carless disregard of the football” (as described by Tom Coughlin) has hurt the Giants all year. The G-Men have turned the ball over 30 times this year. That is more than any other team in the NFL. Eli Manning has thrown 16 interceptions. That’s second only to Brett Favre.

Chicago Bears11. (15) 7-3 The Bears defense is starting to emerge. In the past two games, the Bears D has five turnovers and seven sacks, and has held opponents to 2-for-20 on third-down conversions.

12. (12) 5-5 After starting the season 2-5, the Chargers now are enjoying a three-game winning streak. Three division games remain on their schedule. Philip Rivers is having an MVP-caliber year. If he can continue to perform the way he has, the Chargers will win the AFC West once again.

Kansas City Chiefs13. (16) 6-4 There’s nothing like a game against the Cardinals to help snap a two-game losing streak. The Chiefs are back in sole possession of the AFC West after their win and the Raiders’ loss.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers14. (19) 7-3 A road shutout helps the Buccaneers climb in the rankings. Although the win was against a poor 49ers team, it is very difficult to hold any NFL team scoreless. The true test will come over the next two weeks as their easy schedule gets a little more complicated. Tampa will travel to Baltimore to face the Ravens and then will return home to take on the Falcons.

Jacksonville Jaguars15. (18) 6-4 To further prove that this NFL season has been completely unpredictable, consider this: After 10 games, the Jaguars are in first place in the AFC South. It will be difficult for the Jags to stay at that position if they continue to turn the ball over at the rate they are going. The Jags’ 24 turnovers leads the AFC.

Oakland Raiders 16. (11) 5-5 Against a premiere defense, the Raiders offense crumbled. Their second-ranked rushing attack was held to just 61 yards. Darren McFadden contributed just 14 yards in 10 carries in the loss to the Steelers.

Washington Redskins17. (21) 5-5 Great job by the Redskins to put Monday night’s humiliating loss behind them and bounce back with a win. Battling an array of injuries, Donovan McNabb and the Redskins managed to win in overtime. The injury-prone Clinton Portis was one of many Redskins who had to leave the game.

Miami Dolphins18. (13) 5-5 The Dolphins need to get back to what they do best on offense, and that is running the ball. In their 16-0 loss to the Bears, they converted just once in 11 attempts on third down. They ran the ball just 13 times. With Tyler Thigpen behind center, Miami needs to put the ball in the hands of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams.

19. (14) 5-5 Nothing positive ever comes from a coach/quarterback feud. The immaturity of Vince Young will prevent him from having any type of success in the NFL. If he wants to have a long career in football, he needs to mature. Rookie quarterback Rusty Smith now takes over the quarterback position until Kerry Collins returns. The Titans are not in a good situation right now.

Cleveland Browns20. (17) 3-7 All of the momentum the Browns were able to muster over the past few weeks took a serious hit on Sunday. They only were able to score one offensive touchdown against a Jacksonville defense that is allowing 27 points per game.

Houston Texans21. (20) 4-6 Two straight losses in the closing seconds will be extremely difficult to bounce back from. Opposing offenses are having their way in the pass game against the Texans. Houston’s D doesn’t have an answer for the aerial attack.

Seattle Seahawks22. (22) 5-5 The Seahawks allowed 494 yards of total offense in Sunday’s loss to New Orleans. The defense was outmatched and had no answer for Drew Brees and the Saints offense. The one bright spot the Seahawks can take away from Week 11 is that they remain in first place in the NFC West since every team in the division lost on Sunday.

Dallas Cowboys23. (27) 3-7 Finally. Eleven weeks into the season, the Cowboys have won a game at home. Cowboys players obviously are responding to interim coach Jason Garrett‘s “no-nonsense” approach in a positive way.

Denver Broncos24. (24) 3-7 The Broncos can’t stop any team from scoring. Denver has given up 287 total points this year. Josh McDaniels‘ team is tied with Houston for the second-most points allowed in the NFL. The run defense was gashed once again on Monday night with 147 yards allowed on the ground.

St. Louis Rams25. (26) 4-6 The second-place Rams are very much alive in the NFC West, despite losing Sunday. They will have to play well on the road to keep pace with the Seahawks. The Rams’ next three games are at Denver, at Arizona and at New Orleans.

Minnesota Vikings26. (25) 3-7 The Vikings players finally got their wish: Brad Childress is out as coach. Now the pressure is on the Vikings players to perform. Leslie Frazier‘s first decision as coach was to keep Brett Favre in the starting role. It will be interesting to see if Favre is able to play any better under Frazier.

San Francisco 49ers27. (23) 3-7 San Francisco has been one of the most disappointing teams in the NFL. The offense was shutout at home on Sunday. In the last two games, the 49ers are 3-for-23 on third-down conversions.

Buffalo Bills28. (31) 2-8 One of the feel-good stories of the week was the Bills’ 17-point comeback win against the Bengals. This is a team playing for nothing but pride, and the Bills could have easily gave up at halftime. Ryan Fitzpatrick has made the most of his time as a starter. He had four touchdown passes on Sunday when he helped lead his team come from behind.

Detroit Lions29. (30) 2-8 Twenty-six straight road losses for the Lions. However, this season has seemed a bit different than past ones. The Lions are at least playing close, competitive games. They finally have a good core of young talent to build on in the future.

Arizona Cardinals30. (29) 3-7 The Cardinals have been dreadful all season. The decision to release Matt Leinart during training camp is inexplicable, seeing as they obviously have no clear No. 1 QB. The Cards desperately need to solve their problem at that position.

Cincinnati Bengals31. (28) 2-8 “We are terrible,” Terrell Owens said following his team’s embarrassing loss to the Bills. That, Terrell, is an understatement. Marvin Lewis‘ Bengals are in the midst of the longest current losing streak in the NFL, seven games. Cincinnati is one of those teams that could greatly benefit from a coaching change.

Carolina Panthers32. (32) 1-9 In the race for the much coveted first overall draft pick, the Panthers are in the lead. Needless to say, there will be many changes in Carolina in 2011.

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