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WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 4: Replacement refs fiasco won’t alter rankings

09.25.12 at 9:03 am ET
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They may be able to alter the outcome of games, but we will not allow the NFL and the replacement officials to affect the WEEI Power Rankings. Having said that, the Packers are ranked as if they won and the Seahawks are ranked as if they lost.

For the third straight week, the top-ranked team fell from grace. Despite being given two additional timeouts, the 49ers were upset by the Vikings and fall to No. 3. Matt Ryan and the Falcons climb to the top spot. The Texans are slightly behind them at No. 2.

The Cardinals finally are starting to gain some respect and jump all the way to No. 7 after another dominating defensive performance.

If the recent reports are true, we’re in for at least another week of replacement officials. Hopefully we’re not forced to pretend that certain teams won again.

Click here to listen to Mut, Merloni, and Zarbano discuss this edition of the NFL Power Rankings.

1. (3) Falcons (3-0) — There aren’t many weaknesses on this team. On offense, no quarterback has been better than Matt Ryan. The 27-year-old already has eight touchdown passes to go along with just one interception. The Falcons lead the league with 11 forced turnovers.

Houston Texans2. (2) Texans (3-0) — The Texans are just an overall well-balanced team. If they can ensure Matt Schaub never takes a hit like the one he took from Joe Mays on Sunday, Houston will continue to win. This is one of the best teams in the league in one of the worst divisions.

San Francisco 49ers 3. (1) 49ers (2-1) — The Niners turned in a very uncharacteristic performance on Sunday, but it’s way too early to say this team isn’t as good as we thought it was before the loss to the Vikings. Interceptions, fumbles, penalties and poor play on special teams all contributed to the loss. This team has been far too consistent over the past year to think it won’t bounce back. Alex Smith threw his first interception in 249 attempts.

Green Bay Packers4. (4) Packers (1-2*) — We have yet to see the Packers offense we grew accustomed to watching over the past couple of years. Maybe it has something to do with playing against two of the top defenses in the league (Niners and Seahawks). Still, Green Bay should be 2-1 right now. Bobby Valentine would call this “a damn shame.”

5. (6) Ravens (2-1) —The offense is now the Ravens’ biggest asset. Joe Flacco has proven he is capable of putting up big numbers in the air and leading his team late in games. Ray Rice has been key to Flacco’s progression. The stud running back demands constant attention and that makes the team’s play-action so effective.

6. (13) Giants (2-1) — Give credit to the Giants for not missing a beat after losing their best wide receiver and running back to injury. They turned in a dominant performance against the Panthers.

Arizona Cardinals7. (16) Cardinals (3-0) — The Cardinals defense can’t be described as anything less than “dominant” after its first three games. Arizona’s D is allowing just 13.3 points per game. As good as this team has looked, it still has shortcomings. There are still question marks at the quarterback position. Remember, the Broncos jumped out to a 6-0 start in 2009 and went on to miss the playoffs.

New England Patriots 8. (7) Patriots (1-2) —The Patriots’ inability to close games late in the fourth quarter on both sides of the ball is a reason for concern. The revamped defense got exposed by Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense. The Patriots cornerbacks are not talented enough to play man coverage on opposing receivers. We saw both Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington get fooled on Sunday night. The Ravens receivers simply ran by them.

Denver Broncos 9. (8) Broncos (1-2) — Unfortunately for the Broncos, the schedule hasn’t been kind to them. In the past two weeks, they’ve faced two of the best teams in the league. Slow starts haunted Peyton Manning and the Broncos in both games.

Chicago Bears10. (12) Bears (2-1) — The Bears defense gets to the quarterback. The relentless D leads the league with 14 sacks in three games. That number will get even higher when the team is finished with the feeble offensive line of the Cowboys next Monday night.

Dallas Cowboys11. (11) Cowboys (2-1) — The Cowboys improved to 2-1 but Tony Romo took an absolute beating in the process. The offensive line has been terrible at protecting its starting QB. If the team continues down this path, Romo won’t be healthy enough to start.

Pittsburgh Steelers 12. (9) Steelers (1-2) — The Steelers could benefit greatly from an established run game. With the type of weapons Ben Roethlisberger has available in the receiving game, Pittsburgh’s offense has the potential to be a lot more dangerous. Isaac Redman, Baron Batch and Jonathan Dwyer just haven’t been able to get the job done. Rashard Mendenhall is inching closer to a return after suffering a torn ACL last season.

Seattle Seahawks13. (19) Seahawks (2-1*) — What an unbelievable performance from the Seahawks defense. The defensive line is absolutely relentless and the secondary is the best in football. A few more weapons on offense and Pete Carroll will have himself a Super Bowl-caliber team.

14. (5) Eagles (2-1) — Michael Vick is responsible for nine of the Eagles’ 12 turnovers so far this season. No team has turned the ball over more than the Eagles. It’s just a matter of time before all of these vicious, violent hits take a toll on Vick. He needs to have better pocket presence.

15. (10) Chargers (2-1) — We saw Philip Rivers get back to making poor decisions on Sunday. The Chargers QB was frequently under pressure by a relentless Falcons defense that resulted in his throwing two interceptions.

Cincinnati Bengals16. (22) Bengals (2-1) — Andy Dalton already has five game-winning drives in his short career. The Bengals are an exciting young team to watch.

Buffalo Bills17. (20) Bills (2-1) — It’s difficult to lose a starting running back who’s averaging close to 10 yards per carry. The emergence of C.J. Spiller provided the Bills with a great weapon on the ground. Now, they’ll have to do without their electrifying back going into their biggest game of the season.

Carolina Panthers18. (15) Panthers (1-2) — I think it’s great that Steve Smith lectured Cam Newton on Thursday night for acting unprofessional and immature. Smith is a veteran and a leader on that team and Newton should soak up any knowledge he can get from established players in the league.

Washington Redskins19. (23) Redskins (1-2) — RG3 can breath a sigh of relief that Trent Williams‘ injury is just a bone bruise. The left tackle had to leave Sunday’s game because of the injury. His absence was felt tremendously and contributed to the Bengals sacking the rookie six times and knocking him down 13 times.

Minnesota Vikings20. (27) Vikings (2-1) — After watching Christian Ponder pick apart one of the best defenses in the league,  the Vikings may finally have a franchise quarterback in the making. The young QB has looked great so far. Ponder is completing 70 percent of his passes and hasn’t thrown a pick yet.

New York Jets21. (17) Jets (2-1) — The crippling loss of Darrelle Revis for the season will have an enormous impact on this team’s chances of making the playoffs. Aside from being one of the few respected leaders on the team, Revis’ role on the defense can’t be replaced. ESPN Stats & Information breaks down just how much the All-Pro corner will be missed.

22. (26) Titans (1-2) — The Titans played in one of the most head-scratching, entertaining games of the year. The young buck Jake Locker completed two huge touchdown passes and helped lead his team to its first W of the season. Despite the win and the large offensive numbers, running back Chris Johnson was once again a non-factor.

Detroit Lions23. (14) Lions (1-2) — Jim Schwartz is a great coach but he definitely blew it for the Lions in Week 3. Under no circumstance can you allow your team to lose like that. Matthew Stafford left Sunday’s game with a high hamstring strain and it’s unclear whether he’ll play in Week 4. Hopefully for the Lions, Schwartz, backup quarterback Shaun Hill and center Dominic Raiola can get on the same page by then.

Kansas City Chiefs24. (25) Chiefs (1-2) — The Chiefs were waiting for their young running back Jamaal Charles to break out. After a huge comeback win, this might just be what Romeo Crennel‘s team needs to pull off a string of wins and strong play.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers25. (21) Buccaneers (1-2) — Greg Shiano has his team playing tough, competitive football after a debacle of a season last year. It’s easy to see the rookie head coach has already had a positive impact on this young Buccaneers team.

New Orleans Saints26. (18) Saints (0-3) — It’s time to push the panic button in the Bayou. The Saints were outscored 11-0 in the fourth quarter and allowed one of the league’s worst teams to beat them at home. The suspension of Sean Payton has haunted this team all year. The offense hasn’t been able to establish any type of threat in the run game. The defense “can’t stop a nose bleed,” to quote Jets linebacker Bart Scott.

Oakland Raiders 27. (29) Raiders (1-2) — Usually when a team gives up four touchdowns and close to 400 yards passing, it loses. However, the Raiders prevailed in overtime against the Steelers. Penalties have always killed Oakland but in Sunday’s win the team was only flagged three times.

St. Louis Rams28. (24) Rams (1-2) — The strength of the Rams offense is the run game. If Steven Jackson and the running backs can’t get anything going, Sam Bradford is in trouble. The offensive line allowed Bradford to be sacked six times against the Bears.

Miami Dolphins29. (28) Dolphins (1-2) — Losing Reggie Bush for the year would have been more devastating than losing to the Jets in overtime. The running back has been the key to the offense and the news that he could be ready to play as soon as next week should be encouraging for Joe Philbin.

Jacksonville Jaguars30. (32) Jaguars (1-2) — Blaine Gabbert will gain confidence after leading his team on a game-winning touchdown drive. The young QB looks like he’s becoming more comfortable in the pocket.

31. (30) Colts (1-2) — The loss of Austin Collie just takes yet another weapon away from rookie Andrew Luck. The first-year QB has developed nicely over the first three games. It will be interesting to see how he does when he has a run game and a few more targets to throw to.

Cleveland Browns32. (31) Browns (0-3) — Time and time again the Browns find themselves in the cellar. After three weeks, the Browns are one of only two teams still searching for a win.

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: Darrelle Revis, joe flacco, NFL Power Rankings, Rex Ryan
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