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WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 12: Patriots jump to No. 5

Posted By Joe Zarbano On November 20, 2012 @ 9:08 am In General | 10 Comments

It was a shaky week for many in the top 10. The Texans (1) and Falcons (2) survived scares against lower-caliber teams. The Patriots (5) lost Rob Gronkowski for 4-6 weeks, the Broncos (7) lost Willis McGahee, and the Ravens (6) won’t have Ed Reed in Week 12 due to an NFL suspension. Meanwhile, the Steelers (10) saw another one of their quarterbacks go down with a rib injury, and the offensive line of the Bears (8) looked like a turnstile against the Niners. Still, the elite 10 posted a 7-2 record in Week 11 and remain the cream of the crop in the NFL.

The Saints miraculously have become relevant again after dropping their first four games. They jump all the way to No. 12. In Philadelphia, the Eagles have hit an all-time low and drop to No. 27 as pressure to fire Andy Reid, the longest-tenured head coach in the NFL, increases.

The top 10 teams have been dominant for most of the year but are starting to show some vulnerability. As Thanksgiving approaches, could one or two of them relinquish their spot among the NFL’s elite? It certainly seems possible now that teams like the Bears and Steelers are staggering while the Saints and Seahawks (11) are rolling.

Click here to listen to Mut, Merloni, and Zarbano discuss this edition of the power rankings. [1]

Houston Texans1. (1) Texans (9-1) — The final sign we needed to determine if the Texans truly are a great team came Sunday. They overcame a late deficit and won. Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson also showed the league that the offense can do more than just run the ball with Arian Foster. The play of the secondary does have to raise an eyebrow. Chad Henne looked like a Pro Bowler against them. The Jaguars have one of the worst — if not the worst — offenses in the league and were able to complete three pass plays of 60 or more yards.

2. (2) Falcons (9-1) — Say what you will about the Falcons, but more times than not they come out on top. This is a resilient football team that’s overcome many deficits. One cause for concern is the lack of production from Michael Turner. This offense has been great in the past due to the team’s ability to run and pass the ball effectively. This has been the first time in Turner’s Falcons career that he’s averaged less than four yards per carry.

San Francisco 49ers 3. (3) 49ers (7-2-1) — Quarterback controversy in San Fran? Jim Harbaugh wasn’t willing to say who his starting QB will be if Alex Smith is cleared to play. Smith is 20-6-1 in games he’s started since 2011. The decision to not publicly back Smith could hurt the Niners. You don’t want your starter lacking confidence and looking over his shoulder. Has Colin Kaepernick proven enough that he can replace Smith?

Green Bay Packers4. (4) Packers (7-3) — No Clay Matthews, no problem. It’s usually the Packers offense that gets the glory in Green Bay, but after Sunday’s win the defense deserves some credit. Four forced turnovers, five sacks and seven QB hits against Matthew Stafford and the Lions.

New England Patriots 5. (6) Patriots (7-3) — No Gronk will hurt, but the tight end position is one of great depth on the Patriots and they should be able to make do until he returns. The Patriots are a ridiculous plus-20 in giveaway/takeaway margin with 27 forced turnovers and just seven giveaways.

6. (7) Ravens (8-2) — The suspension of Ed Reed is a major blow to an already weak secondary. Cornerbacks Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith are already out with injuries. The Ravens desperately want to lock up a first-round bye in the playoffs. With New England and Denver breathing down their neck, they can’t afford to lose any ground.

Denver Broncos 7. (8) Broncos (7-3) — Great news for the Broncos, they still get to play the Chiefs twice. Denver’s remaining opponents have a combined record of 21-39. This team certainly is capable of locking up a first-round playoff bye. One thing to watch is how Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense play without Willis McGahee. Lance Ball and Ronnie Hillman have some big shoes to fill.

Chicago Bears8. (5) Bears (7-3) — The Bears offensive line allowed five sacks to the Niners on Monday night. This unit has played inconsistent all season and is holding the team back. Chicago has a 1-7 record since last year when Jay Cutler doesn’t start.

[2]9. (10) Giants (6-4) — The Giants will bounce out of their bye week looking to get their offense back on track. Eli Manning hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass in three straight games.

Pittsburgh Steelers 10. (9) Steelers (6-4) — It’s pretty simple. Without Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers aren’t in the same class as the other elite teams in the AFC. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, the bad luck continued Sunday night when Byron Leftwich was injured. Now the Steelers will have to play without their starting QB and their second-stringer. Tough break.

Seattle Seahawks11. (11) Seahawks (6-4) — The Seahawks will come out of their bye week knowing that if the season ended today, they would be in the playoffs — pretty impressive for a team that was viewed with limited expectations by many before the season began. The defense has been great and is allowing just 16.1 points per game. That’s second only to the 49ers.

New Orleans Saints [3]12. (14) Saints (5-5) — The Saints are proving it’s not how you start the season, it’s how you finish it. After New Orleans lost its first four, Drew Brees has helped lead the team to five wins in the last six games. The defense is improving and the offense is back on track.

Dallas Cowboys13. (12) Cowboys (5-5) — Jason Garrett‘s team just doesn’t seem like one capable of winning playoff games. The Cowboys are too inconsistent on both sides of the ball. Penalties and stupid mistakes seem to occur each week. The defense only had nine players on the field when the Browns scored a go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers14. (15) Buccaneers (6-4) — There’s finally a winning culture in Tampa Bay. Greg Schiano has done a great job in his rookie season as coach. The Bucs have won five of their last six and a lot of credit has to go to Josh Freeman. He’s progressed tremendously this season. He’s on pace to shatter his career high of 25 touchdown passes in one season.

[4]15. (13) Colts (6-4) — It’s been a great story, but Sunday’s loss showed that the Colts don’t measure up to the top teams in the AFC. As expected from every rookie quarterback, Andrew Luck has had some hiccups along the way. He needs to do a better job protecting the football, and that will come with experience.

Minnesota Vikings [5]16. (16) Vikings (6-4) — The Vikings are in the thick of the playoff race, but with an injured Percy Harvin and two games against the Bears and one against the Packers looming, they could find themselves on the outside looking in very shortly.

Detroit Lions17. (17) Lions (4-6) — A step back indeed. The Lions already have matched their loss total from last year. The offense hasn’t been nearly as explosive. Through 10 games last year, Matthew Stafford had 25 touchdown passes. This year, he has just 12.

18. (18) Chargers (4-6) — Every week we seem to discuss Philip Rivers‘ turnovers. He now has 43 since the start of last season. The Chargers are a minus-3 in the giveaway/takeaway statistic. Winning in the NFL is almost impossible if a team turns the ball over more times than it can take the ball away.

Cincinnati Bengals19. (20) Bengals (5-5) — One element that has been missing from the Bengals offense this year has been the run game. Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis rushed for over 100 yards in a game for the first time this year. Andy Dalton and A.J. Green can be even more explosive when opposing teams have to worry about the run as well as the pass.

Arizona Cardinals20. (21) Cardinals (4-6) — A promising start has turned into a nightmare of a second half for the Cardinals. Kevin Kolb and Ryan Williams have been sidelined with injuries during the team’s current six-game losing streak. Running back Beanie Wells will play this week for the first time since Week 3. The Cardinals will rely on him to help improve their 30th-ranked rushing attack.

Washington Redskins21. (22) Redskins (4-6) — You would have to go back to the early 1990s for the last time the Redskins had a consistent starting quarterback for more than three years (Mark Rypien, 1989-93). They gave up a lot, but it’s starting to look like Robert Griffin III will be worth every penny. The rookie quarterback is doing a great job at limiting interceptions. He has thrown just three all season.

22. (24) Titans (4-6) — The Titans are coming off their bye week looking to win back-to-back games for just the second time this year. The playoffs are more than likely out of reach, so the most important thing Mike Munchak can do is work with Jake Locker and see an improvement from the young quarterback.

Miami Dolphins23. (19) Dolphins (4-6) — Miami’s losing streak, now at three games, doesn’t seem likely to ending anytime soon, with the Seahawks, Patriots and 49ers awaiting. Joe Philbin needs to get Reggie Bush more involved in the offense. He’s the team’s most talented offensive player but for some reason has had a very limited role the past three weeks.

New York Jets24. (27) Jets (4-6) — Mark Sanchez bought himself a little more time after helping New York snap a three-game losing streak Sunday. The media scrutiny could be back to normal real quick after the Jets take on the Patriots this Thursday. If Sanchez can protect the football, the Jets will have a chance to beat the Patriots. The Jets are 1-5 when Sanchez throws an interception.

Buffalo Bills [6]25. (28) Bills (4-6) — The Bills got their first divisional win, but two games under .500 certainly is not where they wanted to be 10 games into the season. They haven’t lived up to expectations, and there are many to blame. Chan Gailey is at the top of the list, especially since Bills fans have seen limited improvement following a solid offseason. Ryan Fitzpatrick has been extremely inconsistent.

St. Louis Rams26. (25) Rams (3-6-1) — The Rams haven’t won since Oct. 4. Their defense has allowed 28.6 points per game in its last five games.

27. (23) Eagles (3-7) — Just when fans in Philadelphia thought things couldn’t get any worse, LeSean McCoy suffered a concussion. Since assembling the so called “Dream Team,” the Eagles have an 11-15 record.

Oakland Raiders 28. (26) Raiders (3-7) — This organization has had seven coaches since Jon Gruden left for Tampa Bay in 2002. Dennis Allen might be the latest to get the ax. The Raiders have lost their last three games by a combined 66 points. The defense is allowing an average of 45 points in that span.

Carolina Panthers29. (29) Panthers (2-8) — Six of the Panthers’ eight losses have been by one score or less. They continue to lose winnable games, and when there is a pattern like this, usually the coach doesn’t survive. Ron Rivera‘s days might be numbered in Carolina.

Cleveland Browns30. (30) Browns (2-8) — The Browns have made a habit of squandering leads. They lost to the Giants after jumping out to a 14-point lead and lost to the Cowboys on Sunday despite having a 13-point lead at halftime. They’ve also lost 12 straight road games dating back to last year.

Jacksonville Jaguars31. (31) Jaguars (1-9) — Blaine Gabbert and rookie Justin Blackmon have been unable to get on the same page all season. Chad Henne had no problem getting the rookie wide receiver involved in the offense. It’s not a coincidence that Blackmon had his best game with Gabbert in the locker room.

Kansas City Chiefs [7]32. (32) Chiefs (1-9) — Chiefs fans have to be disappointed with the team’s inability to even compete Sunday against the Bengals. This team showed some life last week on Monday Night Football against a strong Steelers team. One week later, the Chiefs took a giant step backward.

Which NFL teams are in your top 10? Leave your opinions/comments below or e-mail them to powerrankings@weei.com [8]. You also can send comments via Twitter to @JoeytheFishWEEI.


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