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WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 14

12.06.11 at 7:23 am ET
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We learned a lot from Week 13. The Packers (1) and 49ers (4) clinched their respective divisions; the Bears (16) season is on life-support; the Bengals (18) can not contend with the elite teams in the league, Tim Tebow and the Broncos (13) are in first place; and Madonna will be performing at halftime during the Super Bowl.

The top six teams in WEEI’s NFL Power Rankings were victorious in Week 13. Teams ranked No.7-11 were a different story. The Falcons (8), Cowboys (10), Lions (12), Raiders (14), and Bears (16) all drop in the rankings. Meanwhile, the Jets (9) and Broncos (13) both climb.

The final four weeks of the NFL season are set to begin. The NFC East race is one of the most intriguing. The Giants (11) and Cowboys (10) will face off twice for the right to represent the division in the postseason. The series matchup starts this week in Dallas. Meanwhile, the race in the AFC for one wildcard spot seems destined to go down to the wire. Teams like the Jets, Raiders, Broncos, Titans, and Bengals are all in the hunt.

Green Bay Packers1. (1) Packers (12-0) — The Packers were tied in the fourth quarter for the first time this season. That’s a testament to how dominant the defending Super Bowl champs have been. They’ve now won 18 straight games and will surely wrap up home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The road to Indianapolis will go through Green Bay. NFC teams should be scared.

2. (2) Ravens (9-3) — The Ravens should finish the season 13-3 with games against the Colts, Chargers, Browns and Bengals remaining. It’s very important they take care of business and win out to soldify at least one home game in the playoffs. Ray Rice proved on Sunday that he is the motor that moves the Ravens offense. The elite running back rushed for over 200 yards.

New Orleans Saints3. (3) Saints (9-3) — The Saints couldn’t have picked a better time to be playing their best football of the season. It seems impossible to game plan against Drew Brees and the Saints offense. The pass defense has been the biggest cause for concern this season. However, they did a great job shutting down elite receiver Calvin Johnson on Sunday night.

San Francisco 49ers4. (4) 49ers (10-2) — For the first time since 2002, the 49ers can call themselves division champs. The Niners defense hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher or a rushing touchdown all season. Running backs such as Steven Jackson, Ray Rice, and LeSean McCoy have all run into the 49ers D with little success. On the other side of the ball, Frank Gore is leading a productive rushing attack. Alex Smith is benefitting from the solid run game more than anyone. The young QB is managing games, not trying to do too much on the field, and has thrown just five interceptions.

Pittsburgh Steelers 5. (5) Steelers (9-3) — The Steelers are proud owners of the No. 1 defense in the league. The defending AFC champs look primed to make another strong playoff run. Ben Roethlisberger has shown no ill-effects from his thumb injury and James Harrison is starting to amp up the dominant Steelers pass rush.

New England Patriots 6. (6) Patriots (9-3) — Playing 60 minutes of football seems to be challenge for the Patriots. Their fourth-quarter performance was alarming to say the least. The Colts rallied for 21 points in the last 15 minutes of the game. The cupcake schedule continues this week against the Redskins. They won’t play a top caliber quarterback until the playoffs. We won’t find out how good this team actually is until January.

Houston Texans7. (12) Texans (9-3) — The injuries keep piling up, but the wins keep coming in. The Texans are a resilient, gritty team that refuses to give up, no matter what player goes down with an injury. Gary Kubiak, Wade Phillips and the entire Texans coaching staff deserve much praise for what this team has done. The rags to riches story on defense has been one of the best storylines in the NFL this year.

8. (7) Falcons (7-5) — Dropped passes and a struggling run game is a bad combination. The Falcons had both in Sunday’s loss to the Texans. Star wide-receiver Roddy White leads the league with 11 dropped balls. Michael Turner was unable to get anything going against the Texans. The result is usually not good when the Falcons fail to run the ball effectively.

New York Jets9. (13) Jets (7-5) — The inconsistency of Mark Sanchez has given Jets fans plenty of highs and lows this season. One relatively solid quality Sanchez has shown is his poise in the fourth quarter. The Jets QB has thrown game winning touchdowns in back-to-back games. The offensive line has also turned in two straight solid performances. The Jets allowed zero sacks for the second straight week.

Dallas Cowboys10. (8) Cowboys (7-5) — That was just a crippling loss in a game that the Cowboys had to win. Dallas failed at taking advantage of a huge opportunity of gaining a two-game lead in the NFC East over the Giants. Many can be blamed. Jason Garrett and the coaching staff have to do a better job with time management. They were unprepared and confused on the sideline in a very key moment of the game. The offensive line had Tony Romo scrambling for his life. And lastly, poor execution, tackling, and penalties on defense hurt the team.

11. (14) Giants (6-6) — The Giants play to the level of their competition. At times their effort in games has been questionable. Against the Packers, their effort was tremendous but they fell just short of beating the undefeated Packers. The G-Men have now lost four straight as they head into their biggest game of the season against the Cowboys.

Detroit Lions12. (9) Lions (7-5) — It’s amazing how undisciplined this Lions team is playing. The suspension of Ndamukong Suh should have been a wake-up call for all Lions players. That didn’t seem to be the case. Titus Young, Brandon Pettigrew, and Stefan Logan were all flagged for dumb personal foul penalties that hurt the team. Coach Jim Schwartz and the coaching staff need to be held responsible. Schwartz’s young team is playing with a lot of frustration and the players are dealing with it in a very poor way.

Denver Broncos13. (18) Broncos (7-5) — There aren’t many teams more fun to watch than the Broncos. Tim Tebow is now 6-1 as a starter and has led his team into first place in the AFC West. The key to Tebow’s success has been ball security. He doesn’t commit turnovers and that’s the most important thing a quarterback has to do.

Oakland Raiders 14. (10) Raiders (7-5) — Injuries on offense are starting to catch up to the Raiders. Darren McFadden, Jacoby Ford, and Denarius Moore all missed Sunday’s game. The Raiders need to get their key players back on offense immediately if they want to make the playoffs. They’ve fallen into a tie for first place in the AFC West and have a difficult schedule ahead. The Packers, Lions, Chiefs, and Chargers will all do their best to prevent the “Silver and Black” from making the post-season.

15. (16) Titans (7-5) — Chris Johnson has finally re-emerged in the Titans offense. CJ has rushed for 100 yards or more three of the last four games. The Titans need their elite running back to make a playoff push. Right now, they’re on the outside looking in at the AFC playoff picture. That could change quickly. They finish the season against the Saints, Colts, Jaguars, and Texans.

Chicago Bears16. (11) Bears (7-5) — The Bears are seeing their once promising season skyrocket out of control. The last three weeks have been a nightmare for Bears fans. Cutler and Forte are both out and it’s very likely they will miss the rest of the regular season. Caleb Hanie has been no TJ Yates filling in for Jay Cutler. Hanie has thrown three picks in each of the two games he’s started. The Bears should seriously consider adding Donovan McNabb. Maybe he can help the Bears stagger into the playoffs in time for Cutler to return.

Miami Dolphins17. (20) Dolphins (4-8) — No Dolphins fans, you’re not dreaming. Miami has won three straight games at home for the first time in three years. No one would’ve believed this would be the year the Dolphins would win three straight at home after the way the team started the season. Tony Sparano has amazingly jumped off the “hot seat”. His ability to keep the team playing hard each week after the 0-7 start has been extremely impressive.

Cincinnati Bengals18. (15) Bengals (7-5) — Six wins have come against team’s with a losing record. The Bengals are a solid team but just not in the same class as the current playoff teams in the NFL. The franchise is finally moving in the right direction. They have a franchise QB and a wide receiver of the future.

19. (22) Chargers (5-7) — The Chargers notoriously play well in December under Norv Turner. They kicked off the month the right way but will need a lot of help to make the playoffs and save Turner’s job.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers20. (19) Buccaneers (4-8) — Make that six straight losses for the Bucs. Raheem Morris showed his frustration when he sent home defensive tackle Brian Price and ripped him after the game for committing a dumb personal foul penalty. A stricter Raheem Morris might just be what his under-performing team needs. The Bucs have been flagged 45 times during their current six game losing streak.

Buffalo Bills21. (21) Bills (5-7) — It’s hard to believe the Bills were once 3-0. They’ve now lost seven of  their last nine games since their fast start. The awful Bills defense has been one of the main reasons. The team is giving up an average of 31 points-per-game during their current five game losing streak.

Kansas City Chiefs22. (23) Chiefs (5-7) — It almost seems dangerous to play on the Chiefs. It took just one play for newly acquired QB Kyle Orton to leave the game with an injury. Despite an influx of injuries to key players, the Chiefs have managed to rattle off five wins. A healthy Cassel, Charles, Berry, and Moeaki next season will help them win more.

Arizona Cardinals23. (25) Cardinals (5-7) Kevin Kolb returned to the starting lineup after a four-game absence and delivered an encouraging performance. Kolb struggled early, but seemed to shake off some of the cobwebs in the second half. He finished the game without throwing an interception for just the second time this season.

Seattle Seahawks24. (26) Seahawks (5-7) — The Seahawks have had some encouraging victories. Wins against the Giants, Ravens, and now the Eagles are all teams that have a lot more talent than Pete Carroll‘s squad. A move for a better caliber quarterback will give the Seahawks a great chance to contend for a playoff spot next season.

25. (17) Eagles (4-8) — Michael Vick returned to practice on Monday less than 100%, but it doesn’t matter. The Eagles playoff chances have been dead for a while now. This talented team has to make a lot of tough decisions when the offseason rolls around. Andy Reid is certainly on the hot seat but the Eagles will have a difficult time finding a better option. Re-evaluating the quarterback situation is a must. If the team can’t find a solution on how to keep Vick healthy for a full season; the Eagles will never make it to the “Promised Land.”

Carolina Panthers26. (30) Panthers (4-8) — The Panthers continue to improve as they move into the final quarter of the season. Back-to-back wins in Carolina seemed unlikely for a long time but Cam Newton proved to be the answer. For the first time since 2009, the Panthers have won two consecutive games and have given fans reason to believe they will be competitive with the elite teams in the league.

Washington Redskins27. (24) Redskins (4-8)Fred Davis and Trent Williams will miss the rest of the season for testing positive for marijuana. The loss of their starting tight end and left tackle is a tremendous blow for the lackluster Redskins offense. The team desperately needs an upgrade at the quarterback and receiver position to compete in the NFC East. The suspension of Davis and Williams may help put the Redskins in a better position in the draft to select quality offensive players.

Cleveland Browns28. (27) Browns (4-8) — Cleveland’s run defense has allowed a 100-yard rusher in five of their last six games. The run D is ranked 31st in the league. The Browns need to dramatically improve that area in the offseason, especially since they play in a division that includes Ray Rice and Rashard Mendenhall.

Jacksonville Jaguars29. (29) Jaguars (3-9) — The departure of Jack Del Rio and owner Wayne Weaver is good news for Jags fans. This franchise desperately needed a shakeup and new leadership.

Minnesota Vikings30. (28) Vikings (2-10) — The Vikings beleaguered secondary showed how beat up they really are after Sunday’s loss to the Broncos. Tim Tebow had his best passing game of the year. The words Tebow and passing usually don’t go well together. On the other side of the ball, Christian Ponder made a crucial rookie mistake at the end of the game.

St. Louis Rams31. (31) Rams (2-9) — The good news for the Rams is that it is very likely they’ll have their choice on any rookie player, besides Andrew Luck, when the draft comes in April. They have their young franchise QB already, now they need to get some protection for him.

32. (32) Colts (0-12) — You would be hard pressed to find a more pathetic team than the Colts. The entire coaching staff deserves to be fired after the season. The loss of Peyton Manning doesn’t excuse how unprepared the Colts have looked this year game-after-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.

Read More: aaron rodgers, NFL Power Rankings, Tim Tebow, Tom Brady
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