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WEEI Week 8 NFL Power Rankings: Patriots move up to second spot

10.25.11 at 6:12 am ET
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Once again, the Packers claim the top spot in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. The undefeated Packers have enjoyed their reign at No. 1 in the rankings since August and will go into the month of November a perfect 7-0. The Lions (8) were undefeated through five weeks but have since lost two straight and drop again. The biggest surprise of the week came on Monday night when the Ravens were upset by the one-win Jaguars. The loss drops the Ravens three spots and puts them in a two-way tie with Steelers in the AFC North. Meanwhile, the 49ers (4) climb two spots and join the Patriots (2), Saints (3), and Ravens (5) in the top five.

Some of the teams ranked high at the beginning of the season but have since fell are fighting to get back to where they were. The Steelers (6), Falcons (7), Jets (9),  and Bears (12) are inching their way back up the chart after dropping earlier in the season. The Chargers (14) plummet almost ten spots after an epic collapse at the hands of the Jets. The Chargers have yet to beat a team over .500.

All three of the winless teams in the NFL were in action on Sunday but only one actually had a shot of winning. The Dolphins (31) surrendered a late lead to the Broncos (25) as Tim Tebow led his team to a magical comeback victory while the hapless Dolphins saw their hopes of getting in the win column go up in smoke.

Games that will have the biggest impact on next week’s Power Rankings:

The Patriots travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers.

The Cowboys face off against the Eagles in a key divisional match-up.

Byes: Jets, Raiders, Falcons, Bucs, Bears, Packers

Green Bay Packers1. (1) Packers (7-0)Aaron Rodgers will enter the bye week as the best quarterback in the NFL right now. The Super Bowl MVP leads in almost every statistical category a quarterback can be measured in. The array of weapons on the Packers offense is the main reason the defending champs are undefeated and show no sign of slowing down.

New England Patriots 2. (3) Patriots (5-1) — There aren’t many better than Tom Brady and Bill Belichick coming off a bye week. The last time the Patriots lost following the bye was in 2002. That said, the Steelers passing game with Roethlisberger and Mike Wallace will be a tremendous challenge for the Patriots pass defense. The return of Jerod Mayo, a healthy Albert Haynesworth and the continued solid play from Brandon Spikes should help the Patriots improve on defense the rest of the way.

New Orleans Saints3. (4) Saints (5-2) — It doesn’t matter who the opponent is, any time an offense can put up 60+ points in a game, it’s impressive.  Brees completed 31 of 35 passes and threw five touchdowns. This offense is so dynamic, don’t be surprised to see a repeat performance  this Sunday when the Saints face another winless opponent, the Rams. The Colts are ranked dead last in the NFL in points allowed per game, right in front of them at No. 31 are the 0-5 Rams. The Saints owe a major “Thank you” to the NFL schedule makers.

San Francisco 49ers4. (6) 49ers (5-1) — It was business as usual in the NFC West. The Rams, Seahawks, and Cardinals all lost as the 49ers enjoyed their bye week and saw their lead increase in the division. Barring any major setbacks and injuries, the 49ers are practically a lock to win the West. They’ve played great under Jim Harbaugh and the competition is extremely poor within the division.

5. (2) Ravens (5-2) — For a team many think is one of the best in the league, the Ravens anemic offensive performance Monday night surely will change some minds. The offense has been an issue all year. Until a solid fourth quarter drive with under five minutes to go, Joe Flacco was averaging under two yards-per-completion. Ravens receivers have disappeared at times this year and the offense has looked out of sync on many occasions. In a league known for its offensive super powers, the Ravens may be in trouble if they continue to struggle on offense.

Pittsburgh Steelers 6. (8) Steelers (5-2) — It’s time for the Steelers to prove they can win against the elite teams in the NFL. The Steelers five wins have come against some bad opponents. The two losses have come against first-place teams. The true test comes this week against the Patriots. How the defense performs against Tom Brady and the prolific Pats offense will be a great indicator on if the “Steel Curtain” is still one of the elite teams in the AFC. The Steelers learned on Monday that they will be without defensive end Aaron Smith for the rest of the year. He was placed on IR.

7. (13) Falcons (4-3) — Falcons fans held their breath when it appeared that Matt Ryan suffered a gruesome season-ending injury. The good thing is that the injury doesn’t look serious and he has an extra week to heal with the bye. Michael Turner once again ran for over 100-yards and the Falcons always seem to come out on top when that happens.

Detroit Lions8. (7) Lions (5-2)Matthew Stafford is day-to-day with a right ankle injury that he suffered in the last play of Sunday’s loss. The Lions certainly dodged a bullet there. The offense is already ailing with running back Jahvid Best out indefinitely. Maurice Morris and Keiland Williams filled in nicely on Sunday and will need to continue with that type of production so the Lions can avoid becoming a one-dimensional team.

New York Jets9. (11) Jets (4-3)Shonn Greene’s first 100 yard performance of the year was very encouraging to see for the Jets offense. Mark Sanchez desperately needs Greene and the run game to produce. The Jets offense was dramatically better in converting first-downs with the rushing attack working. Rex Ryan’s team certainly needed that win. A come-from-behind victory that included key forced turnovers and a noticeable improvement on offense might help the Jets gain back some of that confidence they lost.

10. (9) Giants (4-2) — The only team that needed the bye more than the Giants was probably the Eagles in Week 7. The ailing Giants sat back, had time to heal,  and moved into first place by a full game as they watched the Redskins implode. Justin Tuck and Brandon Jacobs are expected to return to the field this Sunday. The Giants will need them. After they take on the Dolphins in Week 8, the Giants have a nightmare of a schedule ahead. Four teams in the top five of WEEI’s Power Rankings await (Patriots, 49ers, Saints, Packers).

Buffalo Bills11. (10) Bills (4-2) — What better way to come off the bye, needing to improve your defense, and seeing a team that has recently changed starting quarterbacks and lost its best running back and wide receiver next on the schedule. The beleaguered Redskins head to Buffalo this Sunday.  The Bills defense needs to play a lot better if they want to compete for a playoff spot in the AFC. They’ve struggled against both the run and pass but have relied on forcing turnovers.

Chicago Bears12. (15) Bears (4-3) — We knock them when they play bad, so we have to give credit when there is improvement. The Bears offensive line surrendered 14 sacks in three games in the month of September. In October, it’s been a different story. Jay Cutler has been sacked just seven times in four games. On top of that, Matt Forte is second in rushing yards only to Adrian Peterson. The starting running back is averaging 6.2 yards-per-carry in the month of October and some of that performance has to be credited to the offensive line.

Houston Texans13. (14) Texans (4-3) — When the run game is working, the Texans offense can match up against some of the best in the league. A healthy Arian Foster enjoyed his breakout game of the year with a dominant performance in the run and pass game. The Texans offensive line deserves some credit. They opened up holes for the run game that put up over 200 yards and they’ve protected Matt Schaub well all year. On defense, the Texans suffered another blow. Safety Danieal Manning broke his leg.

14. (5) Chargers (4-2) — You can learn a lot about a team by watching its hurry-up offense. The Chargers two-minute drill in the fourth quarter was pathetic and a clear sign that they’re not at the same level as the elite teams in the AFC. Poor communication, dumb decisions, and an unorganized offense are not qualities you see in some of the best teams in the NFL. Many expected a lot more from Philip Rivers and a team coming off its bye week. Rivers is having one of the worst seasons of his career. He’s already thrown nine interceptions.

Dallas Cowboys15. (18) Cowboys (3-3) — The Cowboys were certainly happy to run into the dreadful Rams on Sunday after suffering back-to-back losses. DeMarco Murray’s performance was one for the ages as he rushed for 253 yards, eclipsing Emmitt Smith’s single game rushing record in Cowboys history. Let’s face it, the Rams are the worst team in the league against the run, but any time a running back can surpass Emmitt Smith in the record book, there has to be some legitimacy in Murray’s performance. He’ll have a chance for an encore performance next week against a division rival and a team that is also pretty bad at defending the run, the Eagles.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers16. (16) Buccaneers (4-3) — The ceiling seems to be falling fast on the Bucs. Key injuries are continuing to mount. LeGarrette Blount, Earnest Graham, and Gerald McCoy are all banged up. The running back situation is very alarming. Graham is out for the year. If Blount is unable to play after the bye week, the Bucs will have major issues offensively. It’s probably not a coincidence that Josh Freeman threw four interceptions on a day where the run game was non-existent.

Oakland Raiders 17. (12) Raiders (4-3) — Of course it’s going to take Carson Palmer some time before he can actually perform well in the Raiders offense. That’s probably one of the main reasons why he didn’t start in Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs but was forced to play after the atrocious performance from Kyle Boller. Palmer went from playing for one team his whole career, to out of the league, to on the field playing in a real game. Palmer has a challenging task ahead of him. The other bad news that came from the Raiders was that Darren McFadden has a sprained foot and was seen on crutches on Monday.

18. (19) Eagles (2-4) — The much needed bye week has come and gone for the Eagles. It’s been a shaky first six games for Andy Reid’s team and the players and coaches surely needed the time to reevaluate and get healthy. The pressure on the under-performing bunch won’t let up anytime soon. The Eagles have key games ahead against the Cowboys and Bears. It’s very possible the “Greatest team on paper” could be out of the playoff race in two weeks.

19. (17) Titans (3-3) — The Titans squandered a key opportunity to take control of the division. Without a running game, the offense is very limited. Chris Johnson once again had another poor performance. Before this season, Johnson’s career average-per-carry was 4.9 yards. This season Johnson is averaging just 2.9 yards.

Cincinnati Bengals20. (21) Bengals (4-2)Adam “Pacman” Jones has been cleared to practice and this time he didn’t need the commissioner’s approval. Jones is coming off the PUP list and hoping to add depth to the Bengals defense that has played well so far. Statistically speaking, Cincinnati has the 4th best pass defense and the 5th best run defense.

Kansas City Chiefs21. (23) Chiefs (3-3) — It’s amazing that the Chiefs can actually be tied for first-place next week if they beat the Chargers. It was a terrible, injury filled month of September for the defending AFC West champs, but the Chiefs have bounced back nicely and now have won three straight games. They’ve improved in an array of areas. Defensively the Chiefs have allowed just 41 points in their last three games; they allowed 109 points in their first three games.

Carolina Panthers22. (25) Panthers (2-5) — This team has been fun to watch, despite its 2-5 record. Cam Newton has been making strides each week and a lot of credit has to go coach Ron Rivera and the veterans around him. Steve Smith has revitalized his career with Newton behind center. Each week the Panthers have played hard and have had a chance to win.

Washington Redskins23. (20) Redskins (3-3) — When it rains, it pours in Washington. Not only did the Redskins fall to the last-place Panthers on Sunday, they also lost starting running back Tim Hightower for the season and top wide receiver Santana Moss for 5-7 weeks.

Jacksonville Jaguars24. (29) Jaguars (2-5) — Thanks to the Jaguars, Monday Night Football was exciting to watch for the first time in a while. The dominant defensive showing was impressive. The Jags were able to generate a great pass rush and shut down the Ravens for most of the game. The pass defense has been solid all year. If the team just had a veteran quarterback and one or two more playmakers on offense, the Jags would have a chance to win each week.

Cleveland Browns25. (22) Browns (3-3) — The offense struggled to put points on the board once again. Mike Holmgren has to make it a priority to get Colt McCoy some more offensive play makers in the off-season. McCoy needs more talent around him to help him reach his potential.

Denver Broncos26. (26) Broncos (2-5) — That was the prototypical Tim Tebow game. The young QB played poorly most of the day but managed to pull off a miraculous comeback and helped his team become the first in NFL history to win after being down by 14 points with less than 3 minutes to go. Tebow is a lightning rod. Some believe in him, others not so much (cough, cough, Merril Hoge cough, cough) but one thing is for sure; there’s always that feeling that you can witness something special when he’s on the field. Right now, he’s the best option for the Broncos.

Seattle Seahawks27. (24) Seahawks (2-4) — It was Charlie Whitehurst’s time to shine but he blew his opportunity. Filling in for Tarvaris Jackson, Whitehurst didn’t have any answers for the Browns defense. The Seahawks are another team that are piling up injuries. Besides Jackson, center Max Unger, tight end Zach Miller, and running back Marshawn Lynch all are nursing injuries.

Minnesota Vikings28. (28) Vikings (1-6) —  The Vikings pass game finally has some life. The rookie Christian Ponder was impressive in his debut. It’s clear that he is the best option at the QB position. In just one game, Ponder threw as many touchdown passes as McNabb did in three. In his first game as a starter, Ponder was forced to face the defending Super Bowl champs but never look intimidated and showed great poise.

Arizona Cardinals29. (27) Cardinals (1-5) — Running back Beanie Wells will miss some games due to a sprained right knee. That’s bad news for a team that has lost five straight and struggles to run the football. The Kevin Kolb signing has been a bust to this point. He’s thrown at least one interception since Week 2.

Miami Dolphins30. (31) Dolphins (0-6) — Talk about a disheartening way to lose a game. The Dolphins continue to “Suck for Luck” and remain “oh-fer” after blowing a two touchdown lead late. The loss probably didn’t bother ownership and the front office as much as it did the players and Tony Sparano. It seems like everyone across the league knows the lame-duck coach won’t be back next season.

St. Louis Rams31. (30) Rams (0-6) — The Rams defense spent most of Week 7 eating DeMarco Murray’s dust. St. Louis was one of the team’s before the season started that many thought was in line to win the NFC West. Now they’re just fighting to get a win and Steve Spagnuolo will have to fight all year for his job. The injury bug has also been a major factor in the Rams collapse. Besides Sam Bradford, there are many injuries in the secondary and the offensive line. The nightmare season will most definitely continue next week when the Rams take on the Saints. The decimated Rams defense has no shot against the offense of the Saints.

32. (32) Colts (0-7) — Whether Jeff Saturday said it or not, the Colts were “outcoached”, and have major issues. We knew the Colts were going to be bad without Peyton Manning, but it’s been surprising to see how hard this team has fallen. The defense has been horrendous. Freeney and Mathis haven’t been the dominant players we are used to seeing. Seven weeks into the season, the Colts are allowing 32 points-per-game.

Which NFL teams are in your top 10? Leave your opinions/comments below or e-mail them to powerrankings@weei.com. You also can send comments via Twitter to @JoeytheFishWEEI.

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