|WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 11: Big-name quarterbacks go down, reshaping top 10||11.13.12 at 11:12 am ET|
Undefeated no more. The Falcons were grounded for the first time this season, and thus dropped to No. 2 in WEEI NFL Power Rankings. Rising up to take their No. 1 spot are the Texans. The Niners (3), Packers (4) and Bears (5) round off the top five for a second straight week. The top 10, meanwhile, saw three quarterbacks suffer injuries. Jay Cutler, Alex Smith and Ben Roethlisberger left their games and did not return. If any of these quarterbacks miss time it could greatly affect playoff seedings in both conferences.
Michael Vick also suffered a concussion, but his injury is less impactful since the Eagles’ chances of making the playoffs are slim to none. The Saints marched up three spots to No. 14 after knocking off the Falcons. The Bucs also jumped a few spots to No. 15.
As Week 11 rolls in, it’s pretty clear which teams are the pretenders and which teams are the contenders. However, the recent slew of quarterback injuries puts an interesting twist to the playoff race.
1. (2) Texans (8-1) — The Texans now have two impressive road wins against the Broncos and Bears. How a team performs against a solid opponent on the road is a true measure of how good it really is. The Texans went into Chicago, forced four turnovers, and proved to the league they are a force with whom to be reckoned.
2. (1) Falcons (8-1) — Sometimes a loss can help a team realize in what areas it needs to improve. “It’s going to make us a better football team,” Tony Gonzalez said to NFL.com. “I guarantee it.” With Gonzalez’ 16 years of experience, it’s tough to argue with the tight end.
3. (3) 49ers (6-2-1) — Alex Smith is doing much better, according to Jim Harbaugh, after suffering a concussion Sunday. The Niners will face the Bears on Monday night in what could be a battle for the No. 2 seed in the NFC. They’ll need Smith against one of the most relentless defenses in the league.
4. (4) Packers (6-3) — The offensive line will be shaken up as a result of the Packers placing starting right tackle Brian Bulaga on injured reserve. Guard T.J. Lang will be forced to move to tackle and Evan Dietrich-Smith will come off the bench and start at guard. The Packers are an extremely beaten up team with many key players nursing injuries.
5. (5) Bears (7-2) — The Bears were 7-3 last year when Jay Cutler went down with an injury. They finished their last six games of the season with a 1-5 record and missed the playoffs without their starting QB. Cutler won’t miss the rest of the season, but the Bears may lose some critical ground in the NFC while he is recovering from his concussion.
6. (6) Patriots (6-3) —It’s hard to see this Patriots team make the Super Bowl if the defense continues to play this poorly. There are too many good quarterbacks in the AFC who are capable of exposing the Pats D in the playoffs. One positive about this defense is that it is very opportunistic. New England leads the league in turnover ratio with a plus-16.
7. (8) Ravens (7-2) — Two of their next three games are against the Steelers. The Ravens are entering a crucial stretch in their season when they have a great opportunity to gain some separation in the AFC North with the injury to Ben Roethlisberger.
8. (9) Broncos (6-3) — Denver is clicking on all cylinders. Peyton Manning has been the story, but the team’s defense has contributed as well. Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil have contributed to 17 of the team’s league-leading 31 sacks.
9. (7) Steelers (6-3) — Any hope of winning the division went out the window when Ben Roethlisberger got injured on Monday night. The timing couldn’t have been more unfortunate for Steelers fans, as this team was just starting to get on a roll.
10. (10) Giants (6-4) — We’ve seen this before from the Giants at this point of the season, so you can’t count them out. However, Eli Manning and the offense have been horrendous. Manning hasn’t thrown a TD pass in his last 99 attempts.
11. (11) Seahawks (6-4) — Don’t underestimate the 12th man in Seattle. The Seahawks are 5-0 at home and rookie QB Russell Wilson has thrown 11 TDs and zero interceptions at CenturyLink Field.
12. (12) Cowboys (4-5) —Thanks to the Giants, the Cowboys are right back in the playoff race. Dallas has the talent to get into the postseason. Whether it can play smart football the rest of the way is the main question.
13. (15) Colts (6-3) — The Colts have shown tremendous progress for a team that didn’t have a win in December last year. Andrew Luck has made the difference. The young QB has relied heavily on veteran WR Reggie Wayne and the two have become a dynamic duo. Wayne has nearly matched his offensive statistics from all of 2011.
14. (17) Saints (4-5) — One of the major reasons the Saints struggled earlier this year was because of their lackluster run game. Over the last couple weeks, they’ve run the ball as well as any team in the league. The defense is improving as well. The Saints D made a huge goal-line stop against one of the best offenses in the league on Sunday.
15. (19) Buccaneers (5-4) — Josh Freeman threw 22 interceptions last year; 13 of those came in his first nine games. This year Freeman has thrown just five. He also threw just 16 touchdown passes all of 2011. In 2012, he already has 18.
16. (18) Vikings (6-4) — The Vikings have a brutal schedule ahead of them. Two games against the Packers, two against the Bears and one against the Texans will make it extremely difficult on them to make the playoffs.
17. (13) Lions (4-5) — Any playoff hopes went out the window when they lost to the Vikings on Sunday. The last place Lions are now 0-3 in the NFC North and one of the most disappointing teams in the league.
18. (14) Chargers (4-5) — The Chargers have given the ball away a total of 19 times this season. A lot of their problems have stemmed from Philip Rivers. The QB has thrown 32 interceptions in his last 25 games.
19. (16) Dolphins (4-5) — The usually strong Dolphins run defense was lit up by Chris Johnson. This team has shown signs of improvement but still has a long way to go before it can contend seriously in the AFC.
20. (23) Bengals (4-5) — The Bengals win/loss record against quality opponents has been discussed often since the start of last season. Marvin Lewis‘ team finally got a win against a team with a winning record on Sunday.
21. (21) Cardinals (4-5) — The Cardinals will attempt to snap their five-game losing streak against the 8-1 Falcons. Their offense has been anemic in that stretch. The team hasn’t scored more than 17 points since September. John Skelton has thrown two touchdowns and four interceptions since stepping in for an injured Kevin Kolb
22. (22) Redskins (3-6) — Five of the remaining seven games on the schedule are against divisional opponents. Now is the time for RG3 to familiarize himself with his fellow NFC East opponents that he’ll be playing for many years to come.
23. (20) Eagles (3-6) — It was only a matter of time before Michael Vick got injured. With the way he and the offensive line have played, it was obvious Vick couldn’t endure a full season of the type of punishing hits he has taken. The Andy Reid era in Philadelphia is nearing its end.
24. (26) Titans (4-6) — Chris Johnson has rushed for 267 yards in his last two games. In his first five, he rushed for a combined 210. The Titans running back has certainly turned it on as of late but the team is still average despite his improved performance. Tennessee is 2-3 when Johnson runs for 99 or more yards.
25. (28) Rams (3-5-1) — Poor clock management and undisciplined play really stood out in the Rams tie on Sunday. They were flagged 13 times and are currently the third most penalized team in the league with 74 infractions.
26. (24) Raiders (3-6) — One week after giving up a record-breaking amount of rushing yards, the Raiders defense gave up 55 points. In their last two games, the Raiders D has allowed an alarming 97 points.
27. (25) Jets (3-6) —This offseason will surely be an interesting one for Jets fans. If owner Woody Johnson hasn’t realized by now that a major shakeup is needed, he never will. Changes are on the horizon in New York and that will start with Mark Sanchez.
28. (27) Bills (3-6) —The Bills seem like they always find a way to lose. That’s a sign of bad coaching. The defense was supposed to be much improved this year after some big name free agent signings and draft selections. However, the Bills are last in the league, allowing an average of 31.7 points per game, four points more than their average last year.
29. (29) Panthers (2-7) — Cam Newton interceptions and a lack of production at running back have hurt the Panthers all season. Newton has taken a step back this year and that may be a result of the team’s dreadful run game. Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams have combined for just 519 yards and three touchdowns all season.
30. (30) Browns (2-7) — Coming off the bye week, the Browns’ major focus should be improving QB Brandon Weeden. The 29-year-old has been the least impactful of the five starting rookie quarterbacks. He’s thrown nine touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
31. (31) Jaguars (1-8) — The Jaguars should once again use the draft to attempt to acquire a franchise QB. Blaine Gabbert has played in enough games in the NFL where it has become apparent he is not capable of winning more games than losing.
32. (32) Chiefs (1-8) — It took nine weeks but the Chiefs finally enjoyed a lead during a game. Missed opportunities and an overtime turnover cost Romeo Crennel‘s team the win. It will be interesting to see if he decides to go with Brady Quinn over Matt Cassel in Week 11.
Which NFL teams are in your top 10? Leave your opinions/comments below or e-mail them to email@example.com. You also can send comments via Twitter to @JoeytheFishWEEI.
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