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WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 6: Patriots return to top 5

10.09.12 at 10:19 am ET
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For the third straight week the Falcons (1), Texans (2) and 49ers (3) remain at the top of the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. At a combined 14-1, those teams have one major thing in common: balance. They are strong on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.

One team that is no stranger to the top five is the Patriots. Tom Brady and company hop back in at No. 5 after a three-week absence. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are the latest team to get bounced after their loss to the Colts. Green Bay drops to No. 7.

One division that has gone from rags to riches is the NFC West. The 49ers (3), Cardinals (10), Seahawks (16) and Rams (25) are all bolstered by solid defense and are progressing week to week.

Week 6 has the potential to be the most impactful week yet. In a rematch of the NFC championship, the 49ers will be out for revenge against the Giants (8). Meanwhile, the Texans will battle the Packers as Green Bay attempts to avoid dropping to 2-4.

1. (1) Falcons (5-0) ‘€” Matt Ryan has led the Falcons to their first 5-0 start in franchise history. Mike Smith‘s team put up 17 points in the fourth quarter to remain perfect. Great teams win close games and find ways to prevail. The Falcons have proven they are capable of that so far.

2. (2) Texans (5-0) ‘€” The pulse of the Texans defense may be out for the year. The early reports suggest Brian Cushing suffered a torn ACL in Monday night’s win over the Jets, and that could be a crippling blow.

3. (3) 49ers (4-1) ‘€” The Niners have outscored their opponents 79-3 in their last two games. That’s a pretty remarkable statistic. It shows how dominant this team is but also how terrible the Jets and Bills are as well. They’ll face some real competition next week against the Giants but there are reasons to be concerned. Alex Smith has a sprained middle finger on his throwing hand.

4. (5) Ravens (4-1) ‘€” It wasn’t pretty but the Ravens improved to 4-1 without scoring a touchdown. Ray Rice rushed for over 100 yards and that usually means a Ravens victory. Baltimore is 13-2 when Rice rushes for over 100 yards. For John Harbaugh, the formula to victory is simple: Get Ray Rice the rock.

5. (7) Patriots (3-2) ‘€” As long as the defense remains opportunistic, the Patriots will continue to roll. The defense has forced key turnovers in crucial moments throughout the season. A solid giveaway/takeaway number is usually a great indicator of how good a team really is, and the Pats and the Falcons top the NFL with a plus-10.

6. (9) Bears (4-1) ‘€” The Bears top of the NFC North and have a two-game advantage over  the Packers. Not many would have predicted that at the start of the season. The addition of Brandon Marshall has done wonders for the Bears offense. No team has sacked the opposing quarterback more than the Bears defense.

7. (4) Packers (2-3) ‘€” A quarterback’s best friend is the run game, and Aaron Rodgers doesn’t have one. Sunday’s loss to the Colts came with a price. Cedric Benson, Jermichael Finley and BJ Raji all left the game with injuries.

8. (11) Giants (3-2) ‘€” The Giants did what they were supposed to do and that was beat the Browns. Now they face a brutally tough schedule the rest of the way that starts with the 49ers this week. They didn’t need players like Hakeem Nicks, David Diehl, Kenny Phillips and Rocky Bernard against the Browns but will need those guys going forward.

9. (12) Steelers (3-2) ‘€” With Rashard Mendenhall back, the Steelers finally have a run game they can rely on. The return of Mendenhall turns the Steelers offense from one-dimensional to balanced. The biggest disappointment from their win came when Troy Polamalu aggravated his calf injury. The safety already has been ruled out of Thursday’s game against the Titans.

10. (6) Cardinals (4-1) ‘€” Another Cardinals running back has suffered a serious injury. With Beanie Wells already on IR, Ryan Williams is out for the season. This makes a feeble Cardinals offense even weaker.

11. (8) Broncos (2-3) ‘€” The Broncos were unprepared to play the Patriots and they lost because of it. Tom Brady and the Patriots’ no-huddle offensive attack kept Peyton Manning on the sideline. Manning did his part, but his teammates let him down. Turnovers and the defense not being able to get off the field was the reason they lost.

12. (10) Eagles (3-2) ‘€” The sloppy play of Michael Vick and the Eagles offense finally caught up with them. Turnovers will haunt you in this league and Vick has become a turnover machine in 2012. The Eagles QB has a league-leading 11 turnovers in just five games.

13. (16) Vikings (4-1) ‘€” They’re tied for first place, ahead of the Packers, and have already matched their 2011 win total. The Vikings are one of the NFL’s biggest surprise teams.

14. (14) Cowboys (2-2) ‘€” The Cowboys will have an extra week to prepare for one of the best teams in the AFC, the Ravens. The revamped secondary has been Dallas’ biggest strength so far. Brandon Carr and rookie Morris Claiborne have helped make the Cowboys the top pass defense in the league.

15. (13) Chargers (3-2) ‘€” The Chargers were in a great position to take a commanding two-game lead in the AFC West but poor mistakes prevented them from doing so. Now they’ll face the Broncos in a key divisional matchup in Week 6. Expect Ryan Matthews to build on his productive performance against a Denver defense that got lit up by the Patriots run game.

16. (17) Seahawks (3-2) ‘€” Like many of the teams in their division, the Seahawks are anchored by their great defense. The Packers, Cowboys, and Panthers all have pretty talented offenses and none of those teams were able to score more than 14 points against the Seahawks D.

17. (26) Saints (1-4) ‘€” Although the Saints will be disappointed to go into the bye week 1-4, they should be encouraged. Drew Brees and the Saints offense have been on a roll the last two games after struggling out of the gate. This team has a great opportunity to regroup and build off the momentum it built on Sunday night.

18. (15) Bengals (2-3) ‘€” Usually we see the Bengals beat the teams under .500 and lose to the ones that are over. However, the Dolphins had other plans. So far, the signing of BenJarvus Green-Ellis has been a disappointment. After going four years without a fumble, he’s fumbled three times in five games. The offense also has to do better on third down. The Bengals are 31st in the league in third-down conversions.

19. (18) Redskins (2-3) ‘€” RG3 is going to have a short career in the NFL if he doesn’t learn to slide. The rookie has absorbed a great number of punishing hits already through five games. Maybe the concussion he suffered on Sunday will accelerate the learning process.

20. (21) Jets (2-2) ‘€” The Jets offense showed a little life on Monday night but we also saw Mark Sanchez continue to make the same mistakes. Sanchez threw two crucial interceptions. One was in the red zone and another was late in the fourth quarter. “Tebow Time” is fast approaching.

21. (23) Lions (1-3) ‘€” Coming off their bye week, all eyes will be on the Lions special teams. Detroit became the first team in NFL history to allow a kick return and a punt return in consecutive games. Jim Schwartz‘s team could easily be 0-4 if it wasn’t for a late game-winning drive in Week 1 against the Rams.

22. (20) Panthers (1-4) ‘€” Cam Newton and the Panthers offense are having a sophomore slump. The reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year has been out of sync with his top target Steve Smith. It wasn’t that long ago when Ryan Kalil predicted a Super Bowl appearance for his team. Just five games into the season and it already looks like the Panthers will miss the post season for the first time since 2008.

23. (29) Dolphins (2-3) ‘€” The run defense has been superb for the Dolphins. Miami’s D is allowing just 2.7 yards per carry. Ryan Tannehill is also gradually improving week to week. The rookie made some great throws in the team’s win over the Bengals.

24. (24) Buccaneers (1-3) ‘€” The Bucs’ have improved under Greg Schiano but their record doesn’t reflect it. They have remained competitive in all of their games, that’s something they couldn’t say last year. Poor offensive line play and an atrocious secondary have hindered their chances of having more W’s in the win column.

25. (27) Rams (3-2) ‘€” It was startling to learn that Danny Amendola suffered a life threatening injury. His dislocated clavicle came dangerously close to puncturing his aorta and trachea. This is a big loss to a Rams offense that is lacking weapons.

26. (19) Bills (2-3) ‘€” In two straight weeks, the Bills have looked like a beaten, lifeless team. They have given up 97 points in two games. Chan Gailey may find himself on the chopping block if his team doesn’t respond.

27. (31) Colts (2-2) ‘€” What an emotional win for the Colts. That’s the type of victory teams build on. Andrew Luck is quickly translating his game into the NFL and his progression has been remarkable. Last year it took the Colts 15 games to win two. With Luck at QB, the Colts have already matched that number in just four games.

28. (22) Titans (1-4) ‘€” The Titans have yet to allow less than 30 points this season. That makes winning very difficult especially when the offense is unproductive as well.

29. (25) Chiefs (1-4) ‘€” The Chiefs have done one thing well in 2012 and that has been run the ball. Aside from that, Romeo Crennel‘s team is falling fast. The poor play at the quarterback position has been the main issue. Matt Cassel has already matched his interception total of nine from last season. It’s difficult to believe Brady Quinn can do any better.

30. (28) Raiders (1-3) ‘€” Defensively, the Raiders have to do a better job at rushing the quarterback. They have just three sacks in four games. The team is also allowing a high number of pass yards and over 30 points per game.

31. (30) Jaguars (1-4) ‘€” This Jags can’t score. They’re last in the league in points with a measly 65. To put that number in perspective: the league leading Patriots have 165. The Jags are averaging just 13 points per game.

32. (32) Browns (O-5) ‘€” It’s pretty difficult to jump out to a 14-point lead and still go into halftime trailing. The Browns made it look easy and that’s the reason why they have a giant goose egg in the win column.

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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