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WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 13

11.30.10 at 7:08 am ET
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The battle for the AFC East title and the No. 1 spot in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings will be on the line in Week 13 at Gillette Stadium. For the third straight week, the Patriots (No.1), the Jets (No. 2), and the Falcons (No. 3) control the top three spots. That will surely change next week after the Pats and Jets collide. Tom Brady will be trying to break Brett Favre’s consecutive regular season home-game winning streak while the Jets will fight to stay unbeaten on the road.

The AFC East won’t be the only division up for grabs in Week 13. The Ravens (No. 4) and the Steelers (No. 6) will face off in a showdown themselves. The winning team will be in the driver’s seat to take the division and have a first-round playoff bye.

Continuing to climb are the Chargers (No. 9). There is something about the second-half of the season that flips a switch for Philip Rivers and crew. The “Super Chargers” have rattled off four straight wins.

Down in the bottom of the barrel, the last five teams have a new member. The embattled Denver Broncos come crashing down to No. 28.

1. (1) 9-2 The Patriots have scored more points this season than any other team in the NFL. Tom Brady and the offense are ranked third in the league after completing 45 percent of their third-down conversions. On the other side of the ball, Bill Belichick should be concerned about the amount of yards his defense has given up. The Patriots rank 31st in the NFL in total yards allowed. This team has relied on their ability to force turnovers. Their 15 interceptions lead the AFC.

2. (2) 9-2 Every good team must win on the road and the Jets certainly know how to do that. Dating back to last year, the Jets have won eight in a row on the road. Their most difficult task away from the Meadowlands will come this Monday night in Foxboro. Mark Sanchez has thrown an interception in six straight games after throwing none in the first five games of the season. Sanchez will have to protect the football against a very opportunistic Patriots defense if he wants to give his team a chance to win.

3. (3) 9-2 Matt Ryan is quickly becoming one of the top quarterbacks in the league. The BC alum has five game-winning drives this season. He’s also an extremely accurate passer and has only been intercepted five times. The Falcons are in a prime position to take the No. 1 seed in the NFC. If they can lock up home-field advantage in the playoffs, they’ll be the favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Ryan is 19-1 inside the Georgia Dome.

4. (5) 8-3 The Ravens are entering the last month of the season playing extremely well on defense. They’ve given up 23-total points in their last two games. Ray Lewis and crew must take that momentum into their AFC North game against the Steelers this Sunday.

5. (8) 8-3 The defending Super Bowl champs were successful last year because they caused turnovers in key moments of the game. On Thanksgiving, we saw the Saints once again make a turnover to save a game. This team plays smart football and is well coached. That’s just one of the reasons they’ll be extremely difficult to beat in the playoffs.

6. (6) 8-3 The Steelers were extremely lucky to leave Buffalo with a win on Sunday. We’re starting to see a penalty trend for this team. Pittsburgh has been called for 30 penalties over the last three games. The Steelers will have to be much more disciplined this Sunday night when they fight it out against their division rival for first-place.

7. (11) 8-3 In a battle between two first-place teams, the Chicago Bears played their best overall game of the season. The defense played well again and forced a key interception in the red zone. Jay Cutler benefited from some great protection and threw four touchdown passes and zero interceptions. Matt Forte also enjoyed the great performance from the offensive line and exploded for 117 yards.

8. (4) 7-4 I know Michael Vick has proven he can make big plays every time he touches the ball; but Andy Reid needs to get LeSean McCoy more carries. McCoy is one of the best running backs in the league and had just ten carries in the loss to the Bears. A strong mix of McCoy and Vick could really put opposing defenses on their heels.

9. (12) 6-5 We’re seeing more of the same from the Chargers–great football in the second half of the season. This team is playing physical, dominating defense. The D scored twice against the Colts. San Diego is in a prime position to win the AFC West again. The Chargers remaining five-games are against teams with a combined 23-32 record.

10. (7) 7-4 The Packers are missing a key ingredient that is preventing them being an elite team in the NFL. Aaron Rodgers and his offense desperately need a running back that can pound the ball. Rodgers was Green Bay’s leading rusher last Sunday with 51-yards. Brandon Jackson had 10 carries for 26-yards. On the goal-line, the team doesn’t have a running-back they can trust to plunge into the end zone and that hurt the Packers on Sunday.

11. (10) 7-4 The Giants should be able to build off their win Sunday. They came back from an eleven-point deficit in the second half, scored 15-points in the fourth quarter, and didn’t turn the ball over. It’s also a good sign that the team responded well to a rousing half-time speech from defensive leader Justin Tuck.

12. (13) 7-4 The Chiefs have prided themselves all year on protecting the football. They have the lowest number of turnovers in the league with eight. Dwyane Bowe has been tearing defenses apart. He has scored at least one touchdown in seven straight games.

13. (9) 6-5 Peyton Manning has thrown seven interceptions in the last two games. He certainly looks human with many key pieces missing on offense. The Colts have lost three of their last four games – a poor run defense, an inability to run the ball, and turnovers are the reason.

14. (14) 7-4 The Bucs have yet to beat a team with a record over .500. They have another tough test ahead next week when the first-place Falcons come to town. Second-year quarterback Josh Freeman will have to adjust to life without one of his best offensive lineman as Davin Joseph was put on IR following Sunday’s loss to the Ravens.

15. (15) 6-5 There are some positives the Jags can take from their loss to the Giants. David Garrard played well once again. His ability to scramble and keep the chains moving on third-down must make Jags fans optimistic. However, their lack of a pass rush has really hurt them and they blew a golden opportunity to move a full game ahead of the Colts in the AFC South.

16. (18) 6-5 The road dominance continued last Sunday in Oakland. The Dolphins are now 5-1 away from Miami. The Fins got back to running the ball and that proved to be a game-changer against the Raiders. They had 186 yards on the ground.

17. (21) 5-6 The Texans welcomed Titans starting quarterback Rusty Smith into Houston with open arms. Going into Sunday’s game the Texans defense was dreadful against the pass. On Sunday, they were able to shutout the Titans. Next week, the Texans defense has the unpleasant task of having to defend Michael Vick.

18. (16) 5-6 From first-place to third in the matter of just a few weeks. After a three-game winning streak, the Raiders have lost their last two games by a combined 48-points and have allowed 30 or more points in each contest.

19. (26) 4-7 Interim head coach Leslie Frazier decided to modify the Vikings offensive philosophy. In his first game as head coach, Vikings fans saw their team run the ball a season-high 38 times and Brett Favre threw the ball just 23 times. The result was a 17-13 win over the Redskins. And oh ya, Brett Favre didn’t throw an interception for the first time in five games.

20. (20) 4-7 This Thanksgiving, Browns fans can be thankful Josh McDaniels traded running back Peyton Hillis to Cleveland. Hillis rushed for 131 yards and three touchdowns in Sunday’s win. Hillis now has eleven TD’s this season and looks like the “real deal.”

21. (17) 5-6 The Redskins offense played poorly once again on Sunday. They were unable to establish a run game– a total of 29-yards were gained on the ground by four different player. The receiving core dropped some key Donovan McNabb passes as well.

22. (25) 5-6 A below .500 record is good for a two-way tie for first-place in the NFC West. The Rams finally got that road-win they’ve been clawing at all season. Sam Bradford continued his superb freshman-year in the NFL. The rookie threw for 308 yards, three TD’s and had a quarterback rating of 113.3.

23. (19) 5-6 The Titans are amid a four-game losing streak and are falling fast. Their defense was picked apart by the Texans. Offensively, Randy Moss has been a complete non-factor since joining the team. Moss has four catches for 49 yards in three games. Hopefully for the Titans, Kerry Collins will be able to return this Sunday.

24. (23) 3-8 Yes, the Cowboys lost their eighth game of the season. However, with three games under Jason Garrett’s belt, it’s easy to tell this is a different football team. After falling behind by 17 in the first quarter, the Cowboys refused to quit. They actually came back and took the lead. This team is playing harder and has a great chance to end the season on a positive note.

25. (22) 5-6 The Seahawks were dominated by the Chiefs on Sunday. On defense, they played with a lack of aggression and had no answer for the run or pass. Kansas City was 11-17 on third-down conversions. The Seahawks were 3-12 on third-down.  The offense couldn’t stay on the field and the defense couldn’t get off it. The Chiefs possessed the ball for 41 minutes.

26. (27) 4-7 There is hope in San Francisco. The 49ers victory puts them just one-game out of first-place in the NFC West. They have three division games remaining on their schedule. Taking the NFC West crown isn’t out of the realm of possibility, but it will be difficult to do without Frank Gore. The All-Pro running back is out for the season with a broken hip.

27. (28) 2-9 The last four Bills losses have all come by three points. Three of those games have been in overtime. Despite the poor record, the Bills give everything they have every week.

28. (24) 3-8 In their last 21 games, the Broncos have five wins. Owner Pat Bowlen might have no choice but to give head coach Josh McDaniels his walking papers if things don’t turn around in Denver.

29. (29) 2-9 The Lions are unable to close games– a sign of a young team. They have proven they can compete with some of the best in the league but just not for all four quarters.

30. (30) 3-7 It’s obvious the Cardinals have completely given up on their 2010 season after watching their embarrassing loss on national television. Arizona played with no energy and at times it didn’t even look like the team was even trying.

31. (31) 2-9 The league’s longest losing streak improved to eight straight games on Thanksgiving night. That streak could very well be at 13 games when the season ends. The Bengals remaining five games are against the Saints, at Pittsburgh, the Browns, the Chargers, and at Baltimore.

32. (32) 1-10 The Panthers are lucky John Kasay missed that game-winning 42-yard field goal attempt. The missed field goal means Carolina is still in prime position to have the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft.

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