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WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 7: Patriots fall to No. 8

10.16.12 at 9:59 am ET
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The cliche “any given Sunday” has never seemed more true in the NFL. The one constant has been the undefeated Falcons, who reign supreme in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings for the fourth straight week. Other than the Falcons, the elite teams we’re used to seeing steamroll through the league do not exist anymore. The Patriots (8) and Packers (6) both have three losses; the Saints (17) have four. Meanwhile, surprising teams including the Seahawks (9), Cardinals (12) and Vikings (15) have four wins. There is parity throughout the league and that has made this season even more exciting and unpredictable than years past.

The once prestigious AFC East has turned into a division of mediocrity. All four teams are 3-3. The Patriots are the only AFC East team in the top 10 at No. 8. The Jets stand still at No. 20 while the Dolphins (21) and Bills (24) both jump up a few spots after victories. It’s amazing how quickly things have changed. The NFC West now has three of its four teams in the top 12.

Looking at the AFC, the entire conference is 3-3 or worse aside from the Texans and Ravens. Four teams represent the AFC in the top 10. That could change after Week 7 when the top two teams in the conference clash.

1. (1) Falcons (6-0) ‘€” They call him “Matty Ice” for a reason. Since his rookie season in 2008, Matt Ryan has 13 fourth-quarter comebacks and 19 game-winning drives. If we’ve learned anything from past dominant teams in the league, we know that it’s all about coming away with a victory rather than the way it looks.

2. (8) Giants (4-2) ‘€” Eli Manning and the Giants offense were able to move the ball with ease against one of the best defenses in the league. The defending Super Bowl champs showed the other 31 teams that they’re a serious threat to repeat.

3. (2) Texans (5-1) ‘€” The Texans failed their first real test of the season, and they failed miserably. The loss of Brian Cushing on defense proved to be a major blow on Sunday night when the Packers embarrassed the Texans D with six touchdowns. They’ll have another tough test Sunday against the Ravens.

4. (4) Ravens (5-1) ‘€”The Ravens have just been decimated with injuries — especially on defense. Ray Lewis is the latest Ravens player to drop. His leadership and guidance on the field can’t be replaced and certainly will have a major impact on the beleaguered Ravens D. Cornerback Lardarius Webb also is out for the year.

5. (3) 49ers (4-2) ‘€” Alex Smith has enjoyed recent success because of the way he protected the ball and didn’t turn it over. He had a total of five interceptions last season. In 2012, Smith already has four. Three of them came last Sunday against the Giants. It was the first time the Niners QB threw more than one interception in a game since Oct. 10, 2010.

6. (7) Packers (3-3) ‘€” The Packers offense erupted Sunday night and finally showed what everyone thought it was capable of. Aaron Rodgers felt vindicated after throwing six touchdown passes and quieting all of his doubters. Unfortunately for the Packers, the win came at a price. The team already was without key contributors Greg Jennings and B.J. Raji. Starting linebackers Nick Perry and D.J. Smith have been added to the team’s long injury list.

7. (6) Bears (4-1) ‘€” The Bears will immediately be tested coming off their bye week when they take on NFC North rival Detroit. Right now, the division is the Bears to lose. They should take advantage of the early lead they’ve built because the Packers aren’t going to lay down.

8. (5) Patriots (3-3) ‘€”The Patriots’ inability to close out games has become alarming. Bill Belichick‘s team already has matched its loss total from 2011. It’s evident the secondary still is among the worst in the league. The Patriots should still win the division, but fans will be looking to see improvement as the season continues.

9. (16) Seahawks (4-2) ‘€” Pete Carroll‘s Seahawks have developed a never-give-up identity that has propelled them to a 4-2 record. Three of those four wins have come against the Packers, Patriots and Cowboys. Backed by a hard-hitting secondary, the Seahawks have proven they can play with some of the best teams in the league.

10. (11) Broncos (3-3) ‘€” It doesn’t get much sweeter heading into a bye week. The Broncos need to build on the momentum they’ve established and use it to their advantage the second half of the season. They all believe Peyton Manning is capable of leading them on a Super Bowl run, and they should. The veteran has been tremendous since his return.

11. (9) Steelers (2-3) ‘€” The Steelers have been outscored 40-16 in the fourth quarter in their three losses this season. Those losses have all come against teams under .500. The lack of depth on the offensive line is alarming. The latest injury on the line came to center Maurkice Pouncey, who likely will be out against the Bengals in Week 7.
12. (10) Cardinals (4-2) ‘€” The one constant in Arizona is the quarterback carousel that continues to go round and round. One of the main reasons is that quarterback protection is a major weakness on this team. Kevin Kolb‘s injured ribs might keep him out of next week’s game against the Vikings.

13. (12) Eagles (3-3) ‘€” Until Michael Vick can protect the football, the Eagles will continue down this mediocre path. The team has a league-high 17 turnovers in just six games, and Vick is responsible for 13 of them. Andy Reid promised Monday that he was ready to “tear things apart,” and that started on Tuesday with the dismissal of defensive coordinator Juan Castillo.

14. (14) Cowboys (2-3) ‘€”It seems like the Cowboys continue to have the same problems week after week. When it comes to playing situational football, Jason Garrett‘s team is one of the worst. The offensive players on the field don’t seem to have a firm grasp of clock management and how to handle key situations.

15. (15) Chargers (3-3) ‘€” Some will say that the interceptions thrown by Philip Rivers against the Broncos was very uncharacteristic for the 30-year-old quarterback. However, the countless number on INT’s is becoming a trend. This is a guy who threw 20 picks last season. Quarterbacks capable of leading their team to the Super Bowl don’t turn the ball over four times in the fourth quarter.

16. (13) Vikings (4-2) ‘€” Christian Ponder needs to protect the football and have a high completion percentage. Similar to the way Alex Smith is in San Francisco. In Sunday’s loss he turned the ball over three times and was asked to throw the ball 52 time, a career high.

17. (17) Saints (1-4) ‘€” The news circling around New Orleans that Jonathan Vilma will play Sunday will cause a circus that the Saints players will have to deal with all week. The last thing this 1-4 team needs is to deal with a distraction.

18. (21) Lions (2-3) ‘€” One thing Matthew Stafford and the Lions have proved is that they are never out of a game. The young QB now has eight career game-winning drives. More importantly, the Lions stole a win in a very competitive division that was slipping away from them.

19. (19) Redskins (3-3) ‘€” Robert Griffin III took a huge step in the right direction after Sunday’s win against the Vikings. Not only did he complete 17 of 22 passes but more importantly, he limited himself from taking unnecessary hits. If RGIII learns to protect himself, the Redskins will have a franchise QB for a long time. 

20. (20) Jets (3-3) ‘€” Shonn Greene was probably on the verge of losing his job before he got the start against the Colts and one of the league’s worst run defenses. The Jets need Greene to continue to make an impact on the ground. When Rex Ryan‘s team was at its best, it was all about the ground and pound.  The Jets won’t make the playoffs without a strong rushing attack.

21. (23) Dolphins (3-3) ‘€” If you were to tell Joe Philbin the Dolphins would be in a four way tie in the AFC East six weeks into the season he probably would have thought you were crazy. The reality is, Miami has won just as many games as the Patriots, Jets, and Bills. They’ve done so by stopping the run and progressing week-to-week.

22. (18) Bengals (3-3) ‘€”The Bengals have committed seven turnovers during their current two-game losing streak. They have a total of 14 on the season. The reason why the Bengals made the playoffs last year was because they consistently won against inferior opponents. Their past two losses have come against the Dolphins and Browns.

23. (22) Panthers (1-4) ‘€” Cam Newton has to get back to playing like the quarterback we saw in 2011. The 2012 version has been mediocre at best. Newton has a completion percentage under 60 percent and has thrown just four touchdown passes and five interceptions.

24. (26) Bills (3-3) ‘€” For a team that looked like it gave up in two straight games, the Bills finally showed some resiliency. Their two headed rushing attack of Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller finally look healthy again.

25. (24) Buccaneers (2-3) ‘€” The Bucs snapped a three-game losing streak coming off their bye week. Although it was against the Chiefs, Josh Freeman and the Bucs offense turned in a very encouraging performance.

26. (28) Titans (2-4) ‘€” For the first time this year, the Titans defense allowed less than 30 points. It came against a talented offensive team as well. Jake Locker has been ruled out for Week 7′s game against the Bills giving Matt Hasselbeck another chance behind center to put a W in the column.

27. (25) Rams (3-3) ‘€” The lack of offensive weapons will make it tough on the Rams to move the ball effectively down field. Jeff Fisher has a young team that still has a lot to learn. Sam Bradford needs to know taking a sack at the end of the game is inexcusable, especially when every yard is important to set up a game tying field goal.

28. (30) Raiders (1-4) ‘€” The Raiders should be encouraged by their performance Sunday against the No. 1 ranked Falcons. Quarterback Carson Palmer tool sole responsibility for his team’s loss after throwing a crucial interception late in the fourth quarter. Palmer has to eliminate his mistakes.

29. (27) Colts (2-3) ‘€” The Colts have one of the worst run defenses in the league. It has surrendered eight rushing touchdowns and allows an average of 159 yards per game.

30. (32) Browns (1-5) ‘€”Not only did the Browns finally get their first win of the season, they snapped an 11 game losing streak. The Browns should also be happy that they got some good news about their injured rookie running back. Trent Richardson‘s rib injury is not serious and he is day-to-day after x-rays were negative.

31. (31) Jaguars (1-4) ‘€” It will be interesting to see what the Jaguars worked on during the bye week to improve their 13 points-per-game average.

32. (29) Chiefs (1-5) ‘€” The Chiefs will mercifully stagger into their bye week after a miserable start to their season. Nothing has gone right for a team that has dramatically underperformed. The most important statistic that sums up the Chiefs season is their give-away/take-away ratio. They’re a -15.

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: Eli Manning, Matt Ryan, NFL Power Rankings, Philip Rivers
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