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WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 10: Falcons continue to sit at top

The Falcons remain the only undefeated team in the NFL at 8-0 and fly atop the WEEI NFL Power Rankings once again. Breathing down their necks for the No. 1 spot in the conference are the Bears. Chicago finally moves into the NFC-dominated top five after an impressive performance against the Titans.

We’re nine weeks into the season, and one of the main storylines has been the emergence of the rookies. Andrew Luck [1], Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, Russell Wilson and Doug Martin [2] all have made significant impacts. Luck has helped lift the Colts all the way to the No. 15 spot.

Week 10 games to watch: No. 2 Texans at No. 5 Bears, No. 12 Cowboys at No. 20 Eagles, and No. 1 Falcons at No. 17 Saints.

Click here to listen to Mut, Merloni, and Zarbano discuss this edition of the NFL Power Rankings. [3]

1. (1) Falcons (8-0) ‘€” They’ve found a way to win in each of their eight games, and that’s all that matters. Since 1978, 15 teams have started the season 8-0, and six have gone on to win the Super Bowl [4].

2. (2) Texans (7-1) ‘€” The three-headed offensive attack of Matt Schaub, Arian Foster and Andre Johnson [5] was in full force on Sunday. The Texans have a lot of talent on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.

3. (4) 49ers [6] (6-2) ‘€” The Niners have a great opportunity to deliver a second championship to the city of San Francisco in five months. Coming off an impressive overall performance, this team has proven why it is one of the most balanced in the league.

4. (5) Packers (6-3) ‘€” The bye week couldn’t come at a better time for a decimated Packers team. Clay Matthews [7], Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings [8] are just a few of the key players who are nursing injuries.

5. (6) Bears (7-1) ‘€” The Bears will have an opportunity to prove they are an elite team in the NFL the next two weeks when they take on the Texans and then the 49ers. The Bears defense loves to score, with seven interception returns for touchdowns.

6. (7) Patriots (5-3) ‘€” Give the Patriots credit for upgrading at a position that was a serious weakness. The Aqib Talib [9] acquisition has the potential to be a difference-maker as to whether the team reaches the Super Bowl or not.

7. (10) Steelers (5-3) ‘€” What has gotten into the Steelers run game? Pittsburgh running backs have rushed for over 100 yards in three straight games. The added production has done wonders for Ben Roethlisberger [10] and the offense.

8. (8) Ravens (6-2) ‘€” Many were calling for more carries for Ray Rice [11], and it seems like John Harbaugh [12] listened. Rice had a season-high 25 carries against the Browns. Ravens fans now should worry about the injuries that have decimated the defense. A number of starters are out and Haloti Ngata is playing through a bevy of injuries.

9. (9) Broncos [13] (5-3) ‘€” Peyton Manning [14] is well on his way to solidifying another AFC West title for the Broncos. The difficult part of their schedule is behind them and they have just one remaining game against a team with a winning record.

10. (3) Giants [15] (6-3) ‘€” Eli Manning [16] has failed to throw over 200 yards in two straight weeks. The Giants QB has been extremely shaky of late and the offense has struggled to move the ball. Manning has thrown four interceptions and just one touchdown pass in his last three games.

11. (11) Seahawks [17] (5-4) ‘€” Russell Wilson‘s arm strength was in full display Sunday against the Vikings. The rookie has a laser for an arm and has progressed throughout the season. In his first four games, he threw four interceptions and four touchdowns. In his last four games, he has eight touchdown passes and just two picks.

12. (12) Cowboys (3-5) ‘€” The Cowboys’ record doesn’t reflect the talent they have on the field. This team has made strides and the defense is getting better. However, Dallas makes too many mistakes. Turnovers, penalties, missed tackles and poor clock management are just a few.

13. (14) Lions (4-4) ‘€” The Lions have been extremely effective in the red zone of late. They’ve scored seven touchdowns in their last seven opportunities. Capitalizing in key situations is one of the main reasons why the Lions are right back in the playoff race in the NFC. They’ll take on the Vikings next.

14. (17) Chargers (4-4) ‘€” San Diego snapped an ugly three-game losing streak and salvaged its season with a win against the Chiefs on Thursday night. This team certainly is talented enough to earn a playoff berth, but the question is whether Norv Turner [18] is capable of leading the Chargers there. His job is on the line.

15. (25) Colts (4-3) ‘€” Andrew Luck already has matched Peyton Manning‘s rookie record with four 300-yard passing games. Luck has been even better than advertised. The current Colts QB and the former Colts QB have identical statistics this season. Both have passed for a total of 2,404 yards while leading their teams to a 5-3 record.

16. (15) Dolphins (4-4) ‘€” The Dolphins already have far exceeded expectations by being relevant this late into the season. Ryan Tannehill‘s progress has to be encouraging to Miami fans. It finally looks like the organization has its first franchise QB since Dan  Marino [19].

17. (19) Saints (3-5) ‘€” In a must-win game, the Saints red zone defense and rushing attack stepped up. The Saints D held Michael Vick [20] and the Eagles offense to just six points in five trips to the red zone.

18. (13) Vikings (5-4) ‘€” The injury to Percy Harvin will dramatically impact an already struggling offense. The Vikings playmaker was seen on crutches on Monday and will miss some time. Christian Ponder [21] failed to throw over 100 yards in a game for the second time this season. The second-year QB has throw an interception in five straight games.

19. (21) Buccaneers [22] (4-4) ‘€” In just two weeks, rookie Doug Martin has rushed for 386 yards and five touchdowns. His performance has demanded that he be in the conversation for rookie of the year with Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III.

20. (16) Eagles (3-5) ‘€” ESPN’s Jon Gruden [23] did a great job at pointing out one of Michael Vick‘s major weaknesses on Monday Night Football [24]. That flaw is not making the correct pre-snap read. You see all the great quarterbacks in the game do it — Peyton Manning, Tom Brady [25], Drew Brees [26], Aaron Rodgers [27], etc. Those quarterbacks know when to change the play at the line and call out blitzes. Vick has done a very poor job at it all year and it has resulted in interceptions, turnovers and sacks.

21. (18) Cardinals (4-5) ‘€” After starting the season a perfect 4-0, the Cardinals have lost five straight. That streak likely will continue as their next game (after a bye week) is against the undefeated Falcons.

22. (20) Redskins (3-6) ‘€” Redskins players will have a lot to think about during their bye week after Mike Shanahan [28]‘s postgame comments following Sunday’s loss to the lowly Panthers. It’s a bad sign when your coach publicly acknowledges that the playoffs are out of reach.

23. (22) Bengals (3-5) ‘€” There was hope in Cincinnati that the Bengals could reach the postseason in back-to-back years for the first time since 1982, but that dream is looking more and more unrealistic as the weeks go on. I wouldn’t be surprised if that feat is accomplished in the near future, however. Andy Dalton [29] and A.J. Green have emerged as two of the brightest young stars at their positions.

24. (23) Raiders (3-5) ‘€” Carson Palmer [30] has turned the ball over in key situations all year. He had two fourth-quarter interceptions that ended any hopes for an Oakland comeback on Sunday. The run defense should be embarrassed as well after allowing Buccaneers RB Doug Martin to run for touchdowns of 45, 67 and 70 yards.

25. (24) Jets (3-5) ‘€” As long as Mark Sanchez [31] is at quarterback, Rex Ryan [32]‘s Super Bowl aspirations are unrealistic. The Jets QB is extremely limited and it’s time for the organization to move on. Tim Tebow [33] isn’t the long-term answer, either.

26. (26) Titans (3-6) ‘€” No defense has been scored on more. The Titans have given up 308 points and allow an average of 34 per game. Owner Bud Adams [34] has put the whole team on notice. Who can blame him?

27. (27) Bills (3-5) ‘€” Strong effort from the Bills, but it still wasn’t good enough. When a team underperforms, usually the coaching is to blame. It’s baffling that the team’s best offensive weapon, C.J. Spiller, only got six carries on Sunday.

28. (28) Rams (3-5) ‘€” Coming off a bye week, Sam Bradford [35] will be happy to see Danny Amendola [36] back on the field. Amendola is the team’s only major threat in the passing game.

29. (30) Panthers (2-6) ‘€” The Panthers snapped a five-game losing streak with their victory in Washington. Cam Newton [37] played well, but the defense deserves a lot of credit. Carolina’s D did a great job bottling up RG3 and keeping the explosive QB in the pocket.

30. (29) Browns (2-7) ‘€” The Browns kicked five field goals against the Ravens and were 0-5 in the red zone. This team just doesn’t have the firepower offensively to compete with AFC North opponents.

31. (31) Jaguars (1-7) ‘€” Owner Shad Khan‘s patience has to be wearing thin in Jacksonville. The Jaguars have been outscored by a total of 102 points this year. Aside from a few games, they haven’t even been competitive.

32. (32) Chiefs (1-7) ‘€” The disappointing start resulted in the team making a few changes eight games into the season. Romeo Crennel [38] decided to fire himself as defensive coordinator and promote coach Gary Gibbs. The team also cut starting cornerback Stanford Routt.

Which NFL teams are in your top 10? Leave your opinions/comments below or e-mail them to powerrankings@weei.com [39]. You also can send comments via Twitter to @JoeytheFishWEEI.