|WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 4||09.27.11 at 7:14 am ET|
The first month of the NFL season is complete and teams are shooting up and down the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. The Patriots held the No. 2 spot for two straight weeks but fall to No. 4 after giving up a 21-point lead to the Bills. Speaking of the upstart Bills, Ryan Fitzpatrick and his team take their league-leading 113 points all the way to No. 8. Right ahead of the undefeated Bills is the undefeated Lions (7).
Falling fast are the Falcons (12), Eagles (13), and Bears (16). All three teams lost in divisional games. To add injury to insult for the Eagles, Michael Vick had to leave the game once again. This time it was for a deep bone bruise to his right hand (originally it was thought to be broken).
Take a look at the 12 teams ranked 20-32. It’s safe to say there’s a lot of parity between the bad teams in the league. From the 49ers (20) on down to the Colts (32), the overall quality of those teams is similar. However, only one of those inferior teams will get a ticket to the playoffs. The NFC West should “feel shame” with its four squads: 49ers (20), Rams (21), Seahawks (29), and Cardinals (30).
1. (1) Packers (3-0) — In a rematch of the NFC championship game, the Packers went into Chicago and got a huge win. Aaron Rodgers has done a great job utilizing all of his weapons on offense. The talented running backs, wide receivers and tight ends create major mismatches across the field. There are few defenses in the NFL that will have an answer for this elite offensive group.
2. (3) Saints (2-1) — Drew Brees and the Saints continued their offensive assault against the Texans. They put up 40 points for the second time in three games. The production from the run game has made a difference. Last year, the Saints running game was one of the worst in the league. This year, the collection of Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram has added an extra spark to the offense. As good as the offense has been, the pass defense has been subpar. Looks like the Saints will have to win most of their games this year in a shootout.
3. (5) Ravens (2-1) — No surprise the Ravens bounced back nicely after a humiliating loss to the Titans. The Ravens played great in all three areas. Joe Flacco had a career day and the Ravens defense was on attack mode all game. They sacked Sam Bradford five times, hit him 11 times and held the Rams to just 132 yards passing; much improved from the zero sacks and 358 passing yards allowed last week.
4. (2) Patriots (2-1) — This is a team that obviously has issues stopping the pass. They had similar problems all of last year when they ranked 30th against the aerial attack. In order to be a Super Bowl team, Tom Brady will need the defense to pick him up every once in a while. Everyone talked about what type of numbers Tom Brady was on pace for after two extraordinary games. Well, just three weeks into the season, the Patriots are on pace to give up over 6000 yards in the air. Bill Belichick has a major problem he’ll need to resolve, the good news is that Belichick is probably the best fit for the task.
5. (6) Steelers (2-1) — Sunday night’s win over the Colts placed a giant spotlight on the Steelers’ offensive line. Three starters were taken out of the game due to injury. Ben Roethlisberger took a beating in the team’s 23-20 win and is one of the most sacked quarterbacks in the NFL. Look for the Steelers to address that line because of the poor play and mounting injuries.
6. (4) Jets (2-1) — Joe Namath might have a point. Rex Ryan’s constant praise of his team might have his players thinking they’re better than they really are. The Jets looked unprepared for Darren McFadden, perhaps it was due to overconfidence. The Jets also have issues on the offensive line. Starting center Nick Mangold is out and they’re having trouble protecting Mark Sanchez.
7. (9) Lions (3-0) — There’s not much room left on the Lions bandwagon. For the first time since 1980, this franchise is 3-0. Lions fans are proud to have one of the best defenses in the game right now and a high-powered offense that can put points on the board in the blink of an eye. First-round selection defensive tackle Nick Fairley may be ready to play in Week 4 which will bolster an already strong defense. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson are turning out to be one of the best QB/WR duos in the league.
8. (16) Bills (3-0) — It’s been eleven years since the last time the Bills made the playoffs. It’s too early to say the Bills will be a contender, but this team has shown signs they are certainly capable. The undefeated Bills have proven they are a resilient bunch. Back-to-back come from behind wins is tough to accomplish. When it’s against the Patriots, it’s even more impressive. The Packers, Patriots, and Saints all have scored fewer points this season than the Bills. This is a confident team that believes they can win no matter who they play or what the score is. That’s a sign of a strong team.
9. (14) Giants (2-1) — It’s amazing how quickly the tables can turn in the NFL. The Eagles are now looking up at the Giants in the NFC East. Eli Manning had his best game of the year and that was with limited offensive weapons. Manning threw zero interceptions for the first time in seven games. The last time Manning didn’t throw a pick was back on Nov 28th against the Jaguars. The most important thing the Giants can do now is build momentum after this huge victory and get key players healthy like Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham.
10. (13) Buccaneers (2-1) — Raheem Morris’s young team knocked off the defending division champs in a huge game. Tampa’s defense held Michael Turner to an astonishing 20 yards rushing. Turner was coming off a 114 yard performance but was stifled to just 1.8 yards per carry against the Bucs.
11. (10) Texans (2-1) — Valiant effort from the Texans. They had chances to beat the Saints but couldn’t execute. Matt Schaub and the offense must get better in the red zone. They got away with going 1-for-5 in the red zone last week against a poor Dolphins team, but 1-for-5 against the Saints didn’t cut it.
12. (7) Falcons (1-2) — The Falcons are a talented team who have played very inconsistent during the first month of the season. Matt Ryan’s team has trailed in all three games they’ve played this year by double digits. In Week 2, they pulled off a comeback win when Vick left the game. A lot of this team’s struggles can be credited to the poor play of its offensive line. Ryan is starting to look like Jay Cutler out there.
13. (8) Eagles (1-2) — It’s not too early to say that it might be time to panic in Philadelphia. We’re just three weeks into the NFL season and already Michael Vick is battling substantial injuries. If this continues, Vick will barely be able to walk come November and I don’t like the Eagles’ chances with Vince Young or Mike Kafka behind center. Besides the problems with Vick’s health, the Eagles have played dreadful on defense. Eli Manning, with limited weapons on offense, shredded the Eagles “star-powered defense” with four touchdown passes.
14. (12) Chargers (2-1) — No one expected the Chargers, Chiefs game to be as close as it was, probably not even the Chiefs. Philip Rivers hasn’t lived up to the MVP hype many were predicting at the beginning of the season. Rivers has six interceptions compared to four touchdown passes. The Chargers have time to work on their issues as they’ll play the winless Dolphins on Sunday followed by a struggling Broncos team in Week 5.
15. (20) Raiders (2-1) — Very impressive victory for the Raiders. The win will surely build confidence heading into Week 4′s game against the Patriots. Darren McFadden’s performance against Rex Ryan’s defense has to have Bill Belichick scrambling to find a way to stop the league’s top rusher. McFadden’s production has been huge for this offense, allowing the Raiders to limit the amount of times Jason Campbell has to throw. It seems like every week I write this, but the Raiders have to play more disciplined. They’re averaging 10 penalties a game. That’s something they can’t afford to do if they want to beat the Patriots.
16. (11) Bears (1-2) — The defending NFC North champs are already two games behind first place. It comes as no surprise that no quarterback has been sacked more than Jay Cutler this year (14 times). Regardless of what GM Jerry Angelo says, this offensive line has not improved. As a result, the Bears will struggle week after week.
17. (15) Cowboys (2-1) — Are you 300 pounds and capable of snapping a football? If so, the Cowboys are accepting applications for their starting center job. The lack of communication between Tony Romo and center Phil Costa was embarrassing. The ailing Romo was clearly frustrated all game. The Cowboys got the win, but they have plenty of work ahead to eliminate the mistakes and miscommunication on the field. The mishaps somewhat overshadowed an inspiring performance from Romo.
18. (17) Titans (2-1) — One of the shocks so far in this young NFL season has been the Titans inability to run the ball. Chris Johnson has rushed for just 98 yards in three games. He’s averaging just 2.1 yards per carry. With the loss of Kenny Britt, the Titans are going to need their running game to wake up in a big way.
19. (18) Redskins (2-1) — The Cowboys tried to give the Redskins the game but they were unable to take advantage of their mistakes. The Redskins are lacking play makers on offense. Rex Grossman and Tim Hightower aren’t going to excite you with huge plays and that was something the Redskins needed Monday night.
20. (23) 49ers (2-1) — The 49ers have to be encouraged by the play of Alex Smith so far. He’s protecting the football and not turning the ball over. Granted the Niners have had one of the easiest schedules to date, they look improved under Jim Harbaugh. With that said, there is still much room for improvement, especially offensively. Frank Gore has struggled to get the run game going.
21. (19) Rams (0-3) — The Rams aren’t doing any favors for their former first overall pick. Sam Bradford is on pace to get sacked over 55 times. The young quarterback has been hit hard over the last three weeks and now is nursing a toe injury. An unhealthy Bradford will prevent the Rams from accomplishing their goal in 2011 which is winning the NFC West.
22. (25) Broncos (1-2) — The Broncos suffered a brutal loss Sunday that will be difficult to bounce back from. This team is decimated with injuries. Key players Eddie Royal, Knowshon Moreno, Elvis Dumervil, Champ Bailey and D.J. Williams were all sidelined. Despite those injuries, the Broncos had many chances to beat the Titans but couldn’t execute when it mattered most. Next up is the defending champion Packers. The morale in that locker room might reach an all-time low.
23. (24) Vikings (0-3) — In three games, the Vikings have scored just SIX, yes SIX, second half points. In all three of those games the Vikings have jumped out to a commanding first half lead but have managed to choke it away. It didn’t take long; the Christian Ponder watch has already begun in Minnesota. The poor start already has sparked speculation Donovan McNabb might lose his starting job.
24. (29) Browns (2-1) — Although their wins have come against two of the worst teams in the league, the Browns have gave Cleveland fans hope. Colt McCoy’s 13 play, 80 yard touchdown drive in the final seconds of the game is a reason to believe the young quarterback is capable of leading the Browns to the playoffs for the first time since 2002. It won’t happen this year, but the future is bright in Cleveland.
25. (28) Panthers (1-2) — The first victory of Cam Newton’s career came in the midst of a monsoon! The rookie quarterback also led his first game winning touchdown drive in the fourth quarter (hopefully a sign of things to come for the fans in Carolina). After three weeks, the Panthers have to be happy with the progression of their first-overall pick.
26. (21) Jaguars (1-2) — Blaine Gabbert made his first NFL start in some of the most awful weather conditions you’ll see. Surely a game he’ll never forget. The Jaguars will rely on the No. 10 overall pick to improve the league’s worst offense. Jack Del Rio has already indicated that he wants his offense to be more aggressive. Perhaps the change in the offensive philosophy will advance Gabbert’s development.
27. (27) Bengals (1-2) — Andy Dalton and the Bengals offensive struggles can be credited mainly to the lack of execution on third down. The 49ers defense stopped the Bengals nine out of ten attempts. Last week the Bengals were 1-11 on third down. If this trend continues, count on the Bengals to have double digit losses by the season’s end.
28. (22) Dolphins (0-3) — Last year it was Brad Childress and Wade Phillips, this year Tony Sparano is the first coach in which his job is clearly in jeopardy. With the Chargers and Jets on tap for the next two weeks, the Dolphins could easily be 0-5 by the time they come home to play the Broncos. And we all know how the Dolphins play at home.
29. (32) Seahawks (1-2) — The Seahawks have to take advantage of playing in a poor division and they did on Sunday. Although it wasn’t pretty, Pete Carroll and his team will take the W. They won’t have many more.
30. (26) Cardinals (1-2) — A loss to the Seahawks says a lot about how far away the Cardinals are from becoming a contender in the NFL. Last year, Arizona went 1-5 in the NFL’s worst division. The Cards struggles against the NFC West continued on Sunday. The team played sloppy football and made mistakes at key points in the game.
31. (30) Chiefs (0-3) — For the first time this season, the Chiefs played a game and didn’t lose a key player to season-ending injury. It’s important to look at the positives in Kansas City because there aren’t many.
32. (31) Colts (0-3) — Just place Peyton Manning on IR and be done with it. If Manning is able to return, it will be too late to help salvage the season anyway. By the time Manning may be ready, the Colts will want to lose so they can guarantee the team has a top 3 draft pick. It’s time to eliminate the distraction and give this current Colts team the best chance to win now. The players in the locker room don’t need to be continually answering questions on the possible return of No. 18.
Which NFL teams are in your top 10? Leave your opinions or comments below. You also can send comments via Twitter to @JoeytheFishWEEI.
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