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WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 14

12.08.10 at 10:01 am ET
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For the fourth straight week, the Patriots rule in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. The Pats’ 45-3 clobbering of the Jets makes Bill Belichick‘s team the clear-cut favorite for the No. 1 spot. Soaring not far behind are the Falcons at No. 2. The Patriots will defend their top spot against the Bears (7) in Chicago this Sunday while the Falcons have the pleasure of traveling to North Carolina to take on the Panthers (32).

Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers (3)  jump back into the top five after their huge road win against the Ravens (5).  Marching in at No. 4 are the defending champion Saints.

The Colts have lost four of their last five games and continue to take a nose-dive in the rankings. Their only win in that stretch came against the 2-10 Bengals (31). Peyton Manning and the defending AFC champions drop to 14.

The bottom seven teams remain the same as all of them suffered another loss in Week 13.

New England Patriots 1. (1) 10-2 The Patriots are in first place because they continue to win the turnover battle. Tom Brady hasn’t thrown an interception in his last seven games. The Pats are also atop their conference with a plus-14 in the giveaway/takeaway differential category. If the Pats can lock up home-field advantage and a first-round bye, it’s tough not to like their chances of reaching yet another Super Bowl. The Brady-Belichick combination is just too difficult to beat when playing in Foxboro during the playoffs.

2. (3) 10-2 Matt Ryan has led the Falcons to six fourth-quarter comeback drives. The Falcons have one of the most balanced offensive game plans in football. They can run and pass the ball effectively. Two of their remaining four games are against the 1-11 Panthers. That makes the Falcons’ chances of winning the NFC and gaining home-field advantage throughout the playoffs very good.

Pittsburgh Steelers 3. (6) 9-3 The offensive line is in shambles. The latest injury for the Steelers comes to starting right tackle Flozell Adams. He suffered a high ankle sprain in Sunday night’s slugfest against the Ravens. Roethlisberger needs better protection if the Steelers want to go deep into the playoffs.

New Orleans Saints4. (5) 9-3 The defending champs have won five straight games and are in a race for the NFC South division. They’ll also be adding more firepower to their offense. Pierre Thomas is set to return after suffering an injury in the first month of the season.

5. (4) 8-4 The Ravens crumpled in the fourth quarter and gave up 10 unanswered points to the Steelers. The loss to Pittsburgh puts them in a tough position going forward as they will likely have to settle for a wild card playoff spot.

New York Jets6. (2) 9-3 Does 11 interceptions in the last seven games sound like a quarterback capable of leading his team to a Super Bowl? Mark Sanchez has been making poor decisions with the football over the last several weeks and it caught up to him on Monday night. It won’t get much easier for Sanchez and the Jets. They will face two tough defenses (the Steelers and the Bears) on the road in their final four games.

Chicago Bears7. (7) 9-3 The Chicago offensive line has certainly stepped up its game during the Bears’ five-game winning streak. Jay Cutler is getting more time in the pocket and is making better decisions with the football. Since the Bears’ bye in Week 8, Cutler has thrown just three interceptions and been sacked 14 times, and the team is 5-0. Before the bye week, Cutler had seven interceptions and had been sacked 27 times.

8. (8) 8-4 The Eagles’ hopes of a return to the Super Bowl rely on Michael Vick. The coaching staff needs to protect its dynamic quarterback a little better by limiting the amount of pass attempts he makes. Vick has been taking a beating from opposing defenses. Balancing the offense by giving more carries to LeSean McCoy could limit the amount of hits Vick takes.

Green Bay Packers9. (10) 8-4 Aaron Rodgers has hit his stride over the past few weeks. He’s thrown zero interceptions in his last five games and has achieved a quarterback rating of 114 or higher during those games.

10. (11) 8-4 The Giants protected the football, scored on their first possession, and ran the ball well in Sunday’s win over the Redskins. The G-Men have been very inconsistent in those areas all year. If they can continue to improve, they’ll be a tough team to beat come January.

Kansas City Chiefs11. (12) 8-4 The Chiefs D did something last Sunday that not many teams have been able to do this year — stop Kyle Orton. The Broncos quarterback completed just nine passes for 117 yards — his worst performance of the year. On offense, Kansas City’s run game continues to dominate. The Chiefs are now 6-0 at home and in first place in the AFC West by two games.

12. (9) 6-6 Sunday’s loss to the Raiders was one of the most surprising outcomes of Week 13. The Chargers are now in third place in the AFC West and two games behind the Chiefs for first-place. Offensively, Philip Rivers can only do so much without a run game. The Chargers had just 21 yards on the ground in eight attempts.

Jacksonville Jaguars13. (15) 7-5 The smash-mouth, run-it-down-your-throat game plan the Jaguars are running is obviously working. Maurice Jones-Drew and David Garrard are having spectacular years. Don’t look now, but the Jaguars are all alone in first place in the AFC South.

14. (13) 6-6 The injuries to the offense have simply caught up to Peyton Manning and the Colts. Manning has thrown four interceptions in back-to-back games for the first time in his career. The Colts have no vertical passing attack and their run game is the worst in the NFL. Indy is bringing in free agent running back Dominick Rhodes to help salvage its rushing game.

Oakland Raiders 15. (18) 6-6 What else can you say about the Raiders, other than the fact that they are an extremely inconsistent football team? One week they’re blowing out teams by 45 points, another week they are losing at home to inferior opponents. The latest head-scratching moment from the Raiders came this past Sunday when they beat the Chargers by 15 points in San Diego. The Raiders are 4-0 in the AFC West.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers16. (14) 7-5 The Bucs are an average team on the verge of becoming a good team. They still haven’t been able to beat a team over .500. They are now 0-5 against teams with a winning record.

Cleveland Browns17. (20) 5-7 The Browns have certainly improved from last year to this year. They have five wins with four games to go. They managed to win just five games during the whole 2009 season. First-round draft pick Joe Haden is showing he can be an elite cornerback in the NFL. He has an interception in four straight games.

Miami Dolphins18. (16) 6-6 The inconsistent play of Chad Henne this season has to make coach Tony Sparano wonder if the 25-year-old quarterback really is the future of the Dolphins franchise. Henne has thrown 15 interceptions this year and has thrown at least one in nine straight games. The Dolphins are 1-5 at home.

Houston Texans19. (17) 5-7 Texans fans were filled with hope last year after missing the playoffs by one game. This year they’re back in last place and struggling again. Gary Kubiak‘s days in Houston may be numbered.

Minnesota Vikings20. (19) 5-7 Minnesota is 2-0 under interim coach Leslie Frazier. This will be an extremely interesting week to see if he actually decides to stick with Brett Favre. Favre sprained his throwing shoulder while backup quarterback Tavaris Jackson proved capable of putting his team in a position to win.

St. Louis Rams21. (22) 6-6 The NFC West is so bad that Sam Bradford and Steven Jackson might have what it takes to help lead the Rams to their first division championship since 2003.

Dallas Cowboys22. (24) 4-8 The Cowboys are 3-1 since Jason Garrett took over as head coach. The Cowboys could be 4-0 if it wasn’t for a stupid fumble late in the game against the Saints. Garrett is making a strong case for Jerry Jones to take the “interim” out of his title. In the win over the Colts, the Cowboys intercepted Peyton Manning four times and scored 20 points off turnovers.

Seattle Seahawks23. (25) 6-6 Seattle’s win keeps the team’s playoff hopes alive and surpasses its win total from last year. Two divisional games remain on the schedule. The Seahawks play at San Francisco this week and then play the Rams the last week of the season at home.

24. (23) 5-7 The Titans offense has gone 13 straight quarters without scoring an offensive touchdown. That’s with players named Chris Johnson, Randy Moss, Vince Young and Kerry Collins. Jeff Fisher‘s long run in Tennessee might be in serious jeopardy of ending.

Washington Redskins25. (21) 5-7 What took so long for the Redskins to suspend Albert Haynesworth? Since he signed a $21 million signing bonus, (on April Fool’s Day, coincidentally enough) he has demanded a trade, skipped mandatory OTA’s, failed his conditioning test, and refused to speak to his coach.

San Francisco 49ers26. (26) 4-8 Mike Singletary has changed his mind again and decided Alex Smith gives his team the best chance to win. One more loss and the 49ers’ slim hopes of making the playoffs will go out the window.

Buffalo Bills27. (27) 2-10 The Bills played like a last-place team during Sunday’s loss to the Vikings. They turned the ball over five times; four of them came from fumbles.

Denver Broncos28. (28) 3-9 The Josh McDaniels firing was a move the Broncos had to make. Since starting 2009 with six straight wins, Denver has gone 5-17. It will be interesting to see if Eric Studesville can be as successful as Jason Garrett and Leslie Frazier have been on an interim basis.

Detroit Lions29. (29) 2-10 Once again the Lions collapsed late in the game and lost. As opposed to previous years, the Lions are actually competing against some good teams in 2010. However, they always seem to find a way to hurt themselves and lose. The example from their latest lost is the personal foul Ndamukong Suh was flagged for resulting in a first down for the Bears midway through the fourth quarter.

Arizona Cardinals30. (30) 3-8 You know the Cardinals are having a bad season when they are forced to rely on two quarterbacks, one who went undrafted (Max Hall) and one who was drafted in the fifth round (John Skelton).

Cincinnati Bengals31. (31) 2-10 The way the Bengals lost to the Saints Sunday summarizes their season. A neutral-zone infraction on fourth down gave Drew Brees and the Saints a first down and the opportunity to score a touchdown. The Bengals have played undisciplined football all year.

Carolina Panthers32. (32) 1-11 Panthers fans don’t have to worry about their team winning next week and losing their hold on the No. 1 spot in the 2011 draft; they’ll be taking on the Falcons.

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