- It Is What It Is - http://itiswhatitis.weei.com -

WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 12: Pats drop out of top 5

The Seahawks [1] are showing no signs of wanting to fly south as winter nears. Seattle continues its reign at No. 1 as it heads into its bye week and prepares for a tough stretch against the Saints (3) and 49ers [2] (8).

The Panthers (4) claw their way into the top five after a statement win in the Monday night game. The Patriots drop three spots to No. 7 and have no time to focus on a controversial call in Week 11 because the Broncos [3] (2) are set to roll into Foxboro. Tom Brady [4] will prepare for his 14th showdown vs. Peyton Manning [5]. Brady has had the upper hand in nine of the 13 meetings between the two stars.

The bottom five welcomes its latest playoff team of 2012. The Falcons plummet to No. 30 and join the Vikings (28) and Texans (31) as teams to have hit rock bottom after reaching the postseason last year.

Many teams still are in the thick of the playoff race as the final quarter of the season approaches. Check back next week to see who’s on the way up and who’s on the way down.

1. (1) Seahawks (10-1) — The Seahawks look to be getting stronger and stronger as they inch closer to capturing the No. 1 seed in the NFC. They go into their bye week with six straight wins.

 2. (2) Broncos (9-1) — Manning has been the story all year, but the Broncos offensive line deserves the credit after Sunday night’s performance. The O-line came up huge on the biggest stage by not allowing a sack to the team that led the league in that category going into the game.

3. (5) Saints (8-2) — The Saints are a scary team when the offense is firing on all cylinders. Drew Brees [6] is quietly putting up monster numbers once again as Peyton Manning gets all the attention.

4. (7) Panthers (7-3) — Cam Newton [7] and the Panthers finally got the league’s attention.  Newton needed to prove he could lead his team late in the fourth quarter against a playoff-caliber team, and he accomplished just that.

5. (3) Chiefs (9-1) —  That ferocious Chiefs defense was non-existent Sunday night. Kansas City had a tremendous opportunity to rough up Peyton Manning but was unable to even knock him down. Despite the loss, many of the mistakes are fixable and the Chiefs should be able to rush Manning better when they face him again at Arrowhead.

6. (6) Colts (7-3) — The Colts are one of the top teams in the AFC despite getting very little production from Trent Richardson [8]The 1-2 punch of Richardson and Donald Brown would add a dominant element to the Colts offense if they can find a way to get the young back going. 

7. (4) Patriots (7-3) — Looks like the Patriots offense [9] is on the verge of becoming the more productive unit on the team with the array of injuries suffered on defense and the return of some key players on offense. Despite the loss, it’s difficult to feel worse about the Pats [10] after Monday night.

 8. (8) 49ers (6-4) — The Niners hadn’t lost two straight games since 2010 but have done it twice in 2013.  The Ahmad Brooks penalty was ridiculous, but San Fran knows better than any how to deal with adversity and win close games. The Niners’ two losses have come by a combined total of four points.

9. (10) Bengals (7-4) — Andy Dalton [11]‘s play over the last three games has to be concerning for Marvin Lewis [12]. The Bengals certainly are capable of making a deep playoff run, but Dalton must step up. In his last three games, the third-year QB has thrown eight interceptions and has a 51.8 completion percentage.

10. (12) Bears (6-4) — Injuries in the NFC North coupled with the dysfunctional franchise that is the Lions should make the Bears confident the division is theirs to lose.  

11. (9) Lions (6-4) — In typical Lion fashion, they cost themselves a win. Bad coaching, stupid penalties and turnovers are the main reason Detroit doesn’t have a full game lead in the NFC North.

12. (17) Cardinals (6-4) — No team has flown under the radar this season like the Cardinals. The run game has made all the difference for Arizona. The balance on offense was the one thing holding this team back from getting to the next level.

13. (16) Eagles (6-5) — The Eagles picked up their first win at home since Week 4 of 2012. Nick Foles has led the team to three straight wins and first place in the NFC East with his consistent play and ability to protect the football.

14. (13) Cowboys (5-5) — Jason Garrett [13] has six games to lead his team to that “next step.” If he can’t get it done, he won’t have another chance in Dallas.

15. (14) Packers (5-5) — The run game reemerged in 2013, but it’s clear Aaron Rodgers [14] and the pass game was the main reason. The fear of Green Bay’s passing attack opened up the run game. Without Rodgers, the Packers [15] can’t function.

16. (11) Jets (5-5) — Adam Schefter pointed out during his weekly appearance on Dennis & Callahan [16] the staggering minus-85-point differential the Jets have this season.

17. (19) Ravens (4-6) — Aside from getting blown out in Week 1 against the Broncos, all of the Ravens’ losses have come by one score or less. Their last five losses have been by a combined 17 points. They found ways to win those types of games last year.

18. (21) Dolphins (5-5) — The Dolphins desperately needed a win to put all the distractions of the past few weeks behind them. It will be interesting to see if Joe Philbin can rally the players in that locker room and secure a wild card berth. 

19. (22) Steelers (4-6) — The Steelers secured their best win of the season Sunday and are in contention for a playoff spot even after dropping six of their first eight games. 

20. (23) Giants [17] (4-6) — The confidence is building in that locker room and there still are many players in there that know what it’s like to win a Super Bowl [18]. The Giants have a shot at the playoffs after starting 0-6. That’s amazing.  

21. (20) Rams (4-6) — The Rams enjoyed a bye week while their franchise quarterback underwent surgery for a torn ACL. Jeff Fisher [19] has this team headed in the right direction; it’s just a few years away.

22. (15) Chargers (4-6) —  The secondary needs to be an area of focus for the Chargers when the offseason arrives. The entire defense has struggled all year with tackling. That continued Sunday.

23. (29) Bills (4-7) — The Bills defense lead the league in sacks with 37. It did a great job Sunday against the Jets, forcing turnovers and creating excellent field position for the offense.

24. (24) Titans (4-6) — It took a while for Matthew Stafford [20] to shake his “injury-prone” label, but that seems like ancient history now. Jake Locker [21] has missed many games since taking over as the starter but is talented enough to become an above-average quarterback in the NFL.

25. (18) Browns (4-6) — The Browns have made a nice run and have shown improvement, but it’s time to think about next year. They are a long way from being a playoff contender.

26. (30) Raiders (4-6) —  Dennis Allen and the Raiders won their first road game since October 2012. I think it says  more about the AFC when I write that the Raiders are in contention for a playoff spot. 

27. (26) Redskins (3-7) — The immaturity of Robert Griffin III has been exposed as the Redskins have battled adversity. The situation is very toxic in Washington.

28. (27) Vikings (2-8) — The Jekyll and Hyde play of Christian Ponder [22] has to be wearing thin on the patience of the Vikings brass. It’s sad to think that Minnesota may have the best running back in the history of the game but never get the opportunity to raise the Vince Lombardi [23] trophy.

29. (31) Buccaneers [24] (2-8) — Just a few weeks ago, Tampa fans were wondering if the Bucs would win a game. They’ve now won two straight and are showing signs of progression. Don’t count out Greg Schiano just yet.

30. (25) Falcons (2-8) — The Falcons were so close to the Super Bowl last year they could taste it. Now, Atlanta is closing in on a top-five draft pick. This team desperately needs to find a way to solve its issues in the run game, both offensively and defensively.

31. (28) Texans (2-8) — That’s eight straight for those counting in Houston. The Texans haven’t won a game since September. It may surprise you to learn that this is the first time the franchise has lost eight straight games since joining the league in 2002.

32. (32) Jaguars (1-9) — The Jags are 8-34 over the last three years but have never selected first overall in the NFL draft [25].

Which NFL teams are in your top 10? Leave your opinions/comments below or send via Twitter to @JoeZWEEI.