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WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 9: Cream continues to rise

10.31.12 at 12:15 am ET
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How powerful are the top 10 teams in this week’s WEEI NFL Power Rankings? Well, powerful enough to have gone a perfect 8-0 in Week 8 (the Texans (2) and Ravens (8) had byes). Remarkably, the top 10 stayed the same for the second week in a row. Matt Ryan and the Falcons have been at the No. 1 slot for five straight weeks.

On the other side, teams positioned from Nos. 11-19 in last week’s rankings weren’t as lucky. They combined for an 0-9 record in Week 8. The Eagles (16) and Jets (24) both fell significantly after suffering embarrassing losses.

We’re halfway through the season and some teams have overachieved while others have disappointed greatly. At the start of the season, no one would have thought the game between the Dolphins (15) and Colts (25) in Week 9 would have any playoff implications — but astonishingly enough, it does. On the other hand, the Saints (19) and Panthers (30) haven’t come close to living up to expectations. Those two teams have a combined 3-11 record.

1. (1) Falcons (7-0) — They’ve proven they can come from behind, they’ve proven they can blow teams out, and they’ve proven they can win on the road. The Falcons are the league’s best team and the only remaining unbeaten.

Houston Texans2. (2) Texans (6-1) — The best team in the AFC will look to pick up right where it left off after the bye week. The Texans are ranked in the top five in both pass and run defense. This is a team in line to not only win its second playoff game in franchise history but also to go deep in the postseason.

3. (3) Giants (6-2) — It wasn’t a pretty victory, but it was a win against a divisional opponent nonetheless. The Giants have a comfortable 3½-game lead in the NFC East. 

San Francisco 49ers 4. (4) 49ers (6-2) — If the 49ers offense can play as methodically and efficiently as it did on Monday night, San Francisco can be the most complete team in the league. Defensively, we know what this team is capable of. The Niners allowed a total of seven rushing yards against the Cardinals. That’s domination.

Green Bay Packers5. (5) Packers (5-3) — There are reports that the Packers might be interested in trading for Steven Jackson before the Thursday deadline. That would be a solid move for a team that ranks 26th in the league in the running game. Starting running back Alex Green averaged just 2.5 yards per carry against the league’s worst run defense, the Jaguars.

Chicago Bears6. (6) Bears (6-1) — The Bears D already has returned six interceptions for touchdowns and is one of the main reasons the team is in first place in the NFC North. If Jay Cutler can stay healthy, the Bears can go deep into the playoffs. That’s a big IF. The Bears QB has been under duress a lot over the last two weeks and has been sacked 11 times in that span.

New England Patriots 7. (7) Patriots (5-3) — The Patriots historically get better when the month of November rolls around. It doesn’t hurt that six of their remaining eight games are against the Bills, Colts, Dolphins, Jets and Jaguars. There’s no reason to believe the Pats can’t lock up at least the No. 2  seed in the AFC.

8. (8) Ravens (5-2) — Ravens fans are hoping to see more Ray Rice in the team’s offensive game plan in the second half of the season. The star running back is the team’s best weapon offensively, but for some reason his workload has been limited at times. Baltimore will limp out of the bye week without defensive standouts Lardarius Webb and Ray Lewis.

Denver Broncos 9. (9) Broncos (4-3) — We already know how impressive Peyton Manning has been this season, but the Broncos D really stepped up in Sunday night’s win over the Saints. Denver held the Saints to just 14 points and Drew Brees passed for just 213 yards. The Saints offense looked out of rhythm for most of the night, and a lot of credit has to go to Denver’s defensive unit.

Pittsburgh Steelers 10. (10) Steelers (4-3) — Jonathan Dwyer has revived the Steelers running game and offense. In two starts, the Steelers running back has averaged 6.7 yards per carry. The strong running game also puts less pressure on Ben Roethlisberger and keeps opposing defenses guessing.

Seattle Seahawks11. (11) Seahawks (4-4) — Since defeating the Patriots in dramatic fashion, the Seahawks are 0-2. All four of their losses have come on the road. Pete Carroll told local radio station ESPN 710 in Seattle that his team “could easily be 8-0.” The problem is that argument could be reversed pretty easily — especially if you look at the legendary “Fail Mary” game against the Packers earlier in the year.

Dallas Cowboys12. (13) Cowboys (3-4) — Tony Romo already has thrown 13 interceptions this season, three more than his total all of last year. The Cowboys are a mediocre team that isn’t disciplined enough to be successful in the NFL.

Minnesota Vikings13. (14) Vikings (5-3) — Christian Ponder‘s play of late has to be a concern for Vikings fans. After starting the season without throwing an interception, he’s now thrown at least one in four straight games.

Detroit Lions14. (20) Lions (3-4) — The young Matthew Stafford certainly has a knack for leading his team to victory in the fourth quarter. The Lions QB has nine career game-winning drives after downing the Seahawks on Sunday. All three Lions wins this season have come by way of the game-winning drive.

Miami Dolphins15. (21) Dolphins (4-3) — The Dolphins have rattled off three straight wins, and there finally is postseason hope for fans in Miami. Two of their three losses have come in overtime. It was a good sign that backup quarterback Matt Moore was able to enter the game without any hiccups. Rookie Ryan Tannehill‘s status for Sunday’s game is up in the air, but the quarterback said he was “optimistic” he’d be ready to play.

16. (12) Eagles (3-4) — Michael Vick sure looked and sounded like a beaten man following his team’s loss to the Falcons. The Eagles’ season is quickly spiraling out of control, and you have to wonder how much longer Andy Reid will survive.

17. (15) Chargers (3-4) — No seat is hotter than Norv Turner‘s. The Chargers’ embarrassing 7-6 loss to the lowly Browns was just another step closer to the inevitable firing of Turner. This team has way too much talent for a 3-4 record.

Arizona Cardinals18. (17) Cardinals (4-4) — They didn’t lose in September but didn’t win in October. The Cardinals have lost four straight and quickly are losing ground in the NFC. Until the Cards learn how to protect the quarterback, they will be a pretender.

New Orleans Saints19. (16) Saints (2-5) — Despite the return of interim head coach Joe Vitt, the Saints defense showed no improvement. The Saints are the first team to allow at least 400 yards in seven straight games. Ouch.

Washington Redskins20. (18) Redskins (3-5) — The defense has a poor pass rush and an even worse secondary. The Redskins also missed a lot of tackles in Sunday’s loss to the Steelers. Halfway into the season it’s clear that the team was right to draft Robert Griffin, but Washington is a few pieces away from being a legit Super Bowl contender.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers21. (24) Buccaneers (3-4) — Greg Schiano has done a terrific job changing the losing culture in Tampa Bay. This is a young team that has shown improvement throughout the year. The Bucs won just four games all of last year.

Cincinnati Bengals22. (22) Bengals (3-4) — Andy Dalton has thrown at least one interception in all seven of his games this year. That’s one important area he’ll have to improve in during the second half of the season if the Bengals want a chance at making the playoffs for the second straight year.

Oakland Raiders 23. (27) Raiders (3-4) — They’ve won two straight, but those were against teams ranked 31 and 32. The Raiders’ schedule gets a little more difficult the next three weeks as they face the Bucs, Ravens and Saints.

New York Jets24. (19) Jets (3-5) — Rex Ryan probably has one of the most predictable dilemmas of the season. That dilemma is whether or not to start Tim Tebow at quarterback over Mark Sanchez. As soon as the team traded for Tebow, it was obvious that a few bad games for Sanchez would result in an overwhelming push for “Tebow Time.” Jets fans are eager for anything but what they’ve gotten so far. Sanchez has proven what he can do and what his limitations are. This team isn’t going far with Sanchez behind center. Why not try something else?

25. (28) Colts (4-3) — Many believed the Colts would be improved, but it’s been remarkable how fast this team has progressed from last year. A record over .500 seven games into the season is quite a feat for a team that didn’t win a game until December last year.

26. (23) Titans (3-5) — The Titans defense struggles in many different areas. The pass rush is weak, the run defense is terrible, and on Sunday, the communication was terrible. The Titans lined up with only 10 men on the field twice during the Colts’ game-winning overtime drive.

Buffalo Bills27. (25) Bills (3-4) — The Bills spent the offseason improving their defense, but those signings have shown little positive results. The Bills run defense is the worst in the league and the team is allowing an average of 32.4 points per game.

St. Louis Rams28. (26) Rams (3-5) — The Rams’ lack of weapons on offense makes it difficult for them to compete against some of the elite teams in the league. Sam Bradford needs more talented receivers to target. Heading into the bye, Danny Amendola should be ready to get back on the field when the Rams play the 49ers in two weeks.

Cleveland Browns29. (30) Browns (2-6) — Coach Pat Shurmur gave his players the opportunity to take Monday off after a huge win on Sunday, but they decided to show up for work anyway. The Browns are a young team, and the most important thing right now is that they play hard and continue to show improvement week after week.

Carolina Panthers30. (29) Panthers (1-6) — Cam Newton has been subject to a lot of criticism. The Panthers have lost five straight games, and the second-year QB has taken a step back from his rookie season. Newton’s fourth-quarter interception was returned for a touchdown. He’s not protecting the football and that’s been an issue the team has struggled to overcome throughout the year.

Jacksonville Jaguars31. (31) Jaguars (1-6) — If your team has the league’s worst passing offense, that usually translates into a very subpar record in the NFL. Mike Mularkey has yet to find a way to get first-round draft pick Justin Blackmon more involved in the offense. For all the hype, the fifth overall pick has been disappointing to say the least.

Kansas City Chiefs32. (32) Chiefs (1-6) — The Chiefs have been outscored by their opponents by an astounding 89 points this season. People in Kansas City no longer have to watch the games to see if the Chiefs will win, they just have to watch to see how much they’re going to lose by.

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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