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WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 5: Falcons retain crown

10.02.12 at 7:09 am ET
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For the first time in this still-young season, the No. 1-ranked team retains its crown. “Matty Ice” and the Falcons improve to 4-0 and stay atop the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. The Texans are breathing down their neck at No. 2. In an extremely close race, strength of schedule was the deciding factor in crowning the Falcons supreme for the second straight week.

The top 10 also stayed relatively the same with a few teams moving up and down. The Cardinals (6), Patriots (7) and Broncos (8) all jumped one spot.

Every team ranked 21 through 32 in last week’s rankings lost in Week 4, aside from the Colts (bye week). The 0-4 Browns maintain their spot at the bottom of the pack.

Looking ahead to Week 5 there are three games that could have a significant impact on the rankings. The Eagles will play the Steelers in the Battle of Pennsylvania, the Broncos face the Patriots, and the Chargers will take on a Saints team in search of its first win of the season.

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

1. (1) Falcons (4-0) ‘€” Great teams are resilient, and the Falcons proved that on Sunday. Matt Ryan didn’t flinch when he was forced to start a game-winning drive on his 1-yard line. The true measure of a team is how it performs in pressure situations, and the Falcons answered the call.

2. (2) Texans (4-0) ‘€” Week after week the Texans show why they are one of the most complete teams in football. They score the second most points per game and they give up the least amount of points on defense.

3. (3) 49ers (3-1) ‘€” Coming off a tough loss, the 49ers were out to make a statement against the Jets. They certainly didn’t disappoint. The smothering defense of the Niners completely overmatched the beleaguered Jets offense.

4. (4) Packers (2-2) ‘€” It took a game against one of the worst defenses in the league, but Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense finally performed at a high level. Cedric Benson certainly was a factor; he averaged close to five yards per carry. Although they won by the skin of their teeth, the Packers showed they can handle adversity and come out on top. The referees haven’t been kind to Green Bay over the last two weeks. 

5. (5) Ravens (3-1) ‘€” The Ravens survived a difficult two-game stretch in which they played New England on Sunday night and then were right back at it on Thursday against a divisional opponent. What has stood out most about the Ravens through four games is their offense. Torey Smith, Anquan Bolden and Ray Rice have made it easy for Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense to average 30 points per game.

6. (7) Cardinals (4-0) ‘€” You have to give credit to the Cardinals for battling back and finding a way to win, but they still have a lot of work to do. Kevin Kolb was sacked eight times in the victory over the Dolphins.

7. (8) Patriots (2-2) ‘€” The Patriots are only going to get better as the season goes along. The league should give them their division championship T-shirts tomorrow. The AFC East is a disgrace.

8. (9) Broncos (2-2) ‘€” Peyton Mannings return to the NFL has been anything but easy. The veteran quarterback has already faced the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams in this poll, plus he has to face the Patriots Sunday. Manning is being tested early and that will help him in the long run.

9. (10) Bears (3-1) ‘€” It was an encouraging performance from the Bears on Monday night. The offensive line stepped up against a strong Cowboys defensive line. The Bears D has been the story so far. Chicago leads the league with 14 takeaways.

10. (14) Eagles (3-1) ‘€” The Eagles’ record certainly doesn’t reflect the way they have played this year. Their three victories are by a combined four points. The win over the Giants was their best of the season, as Michael Vick and friends didn’t turn the ball over and Andy Reid finally decided to mix in a healthy dose of LeSean McCoy.

11. (6) Giants (2-2) ‘€” The Giants are 0-2 against NFC East opponents. That’s never a good way to start divisional play. Still, this team has proven it can afford to start a season slow and pick it up at the end of the year. Eli Manning threw a terrible interception in the red zone that really cost the team on Sunday night.

12. (12) Steelers (1-2) ‘€” Coming off their bye week, the Steelers will be extremely happy to welcome back Troy Polamalu and Rashard Mendenhall.

13. (15) Chargers (3-1) ‘€” The Chargers should be happy with the position they’re in — first place with a 2-0 record in the AFC West. For a team that usually gets off to a slow start, Philip Rivers and Norv Turner should be pleased. San Diego will play in one of the most intriguing games in Week 5 when it travels to New Orleans to take on the Saints.

14. (11) Cowboys (2-2) ‘€” His protection hasn’t been great, but Tony Romo has to make better decisions with the football and know when to throw the ball away. The Cowboys are an extremely inconsistent team. At times they look like they’re capable of winning the Super Bowl and at other times they look like they should be in contention for a top-five draft pick.

15. (16) Bengals (3-1) ‘€” Wide receiver A.J. Green is quickly becoming the best in the league. This young team is exciting to watch. The Bengals still need to prove they’re capable of winning against playoff caliber teams.

16. (20) Vikings (3-1) ‘€” The first-place Vikings are one of the NFL’s most surprising teams. Christian Ponder is doing a great job protecting the football (zero picks) and putting his team in a good position to win. The Vikings have back-to-back wins against 2011 playoff teams (49ers and Lions).

17. (13) Seahawks (2-2) ‘€” The growing pains were in full force for Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense. The rookie QB threw three interceptions in an important divisional game against the Rams. The Seahawks have very limited talent on offense and that will hurt their chances of making the playoffs.

18. (19) Redskins (2-2) ‘€” Alfred Morris has been an outstanding addition to the Redskins offense. The productiveness of Morris can only help Robert Griffin III develop as a quarterback in the NFL. It looks like Washington finally has the franchise QB it has been waiting for. The rookie QB not only led his team on a game-winning drive, he did it while his headset was malfunctioning.

19. (17) Bills (2-2) ‘€” For a team that was supposed to have a ferocious defensive line, Buffalo sure looked inept against a beat-up Patriots offensive line. Ryan Fitzpatrick‘s interceptions are killing the Bills. They turn the ball over too much to be considered a playoff-caliber team.

20. (18) Panthers (1-3) ‘€” Everyone wants to blame Ron Rivera for punting on fourth-and-1 with 59 seconds to go, but the coach made the right call. It’s the Panthers D that deserves the blame. There’s no excuse for giving up those types of big plays when you have your opponents pinned on their 1-yard-line.

21. (21) Jets (2-2) ‘€” Last week the Jets lost their best defensive player in Darrelle Revis and this week they lost their most talented offensive player in Santonio Holmes. Mark Sanchez is not a good enough quarterback to carry an offense with no weapons. Rex Ryan is in for a long year in New York that might end with his firing.

22. (22) Titans (1-3) ‘€” The Titans have allowed an alarming 151 points in just four games. The 34 points allowed to the Patriots in Week 1 is the fewest they’ve given up this season.

23. (23) Lions (1-3) ‘€” The special teams unit has been horrendous the first month of the season. In the past two games, the Lions have allowed two 105-yard kickoff returns and two punt returns for touchdowns. The offense simply has not been as potent this year as it was last season. The lack of a running game certainly is a factor. The Lions have one of the worst rushing attacks in the league.

24. (25) Buccaneers (1-3) ‘€” Last year just three of the Bucs’ 12 losses were by one score or less. This year all three of their losses have been by one score. They are competing and showing signs of progress. That’s all Tampa fans can ask for right now.

25. (24) Chiefs (1-3) ‘€” Turnovers have killed the Chiefs. Their 12 turnovers are made up of seven interceptions and five fumbles. Matt Cassel is not protecting the football, and if he continues down this path, Romeo Crennel may be forced to make a change.

26. (26) Saints (0-4) ‘€” The Saints are at the bottom of the league in overall defense. Defensively they give up an average of 32.5 points per game. Drew Brees is one of the best in the league, but asking him to put up over 30 points per week is a tall task.

27. (28) Rams (2-2) ‘€” Heading into Sunday’s game, it seemed like Sam Bradford and the Rams offensive line were headed for a collision course with the dynamic front seven of the Seahawks. All of America saw what the Seahawks D was capable of after it sacked Aaron Rodgers eight times. Surprisingly, the Rams O-line stood up to the challenge and allowed just two sacks.

28. (27) Raiders (1-3) ‘€” Darren McFadden‘s slow start has been one of the biggest surprises in Oakland. The fifth-year running back has rushed for less than 40 yards in three of his four games. Defensively, the Raiders’ lack of a pass rush has really hurt the team. They have just three sacks in four games.

29. (29) Dolphins (1-3) ‘€” In the end, the Dolphins’ inexperience cost them a win against the undefeated Cardinals. Ryan Tannehill threw for over 400 yards, but the rookie threw a costly interception in overtime. Games like that are great learning experiences for the young QB.

30. (30) Jaguars (1-3) ‘€” The Jacksonville passing offense is one of the worst in the league. Blaine Gabbert‘s inability to create big plays is a reason for concern. As a rookie, Gabbert averaged 5.3 yards per completion. This year he’s averaging 5.7.

31. (31) Colts (1-2) ‘€” Maybe the Colts can rally around each other and use the disheartening news about their coach as motivation. Chuck Pagano certainly will be missed by his players and staff as he battles leukemia. Let’s hope he gets well soon.

32. (32) Browns (0-4) ‘€” Who is Brandon Weeden supposed to pass the ball to? Greg Little can’t catch a cold, Mohamed Massaquoi is injured, and Josh Cribbs probably will be out for a while as well after taking a brutal hit from Dannelle Ellerbe.

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: Chuck Pagano, Matt Ryan, NFL Power Rankings, Tom Brady
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