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WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 13: Patriots move up to No. 4 11.27.12 at 9:39 am ET
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The bye weeks are over and now every team in the NFL has played the same number of games. If we’ve learned anything through the first three months of the current season, it’s that there are a lot of mediocre and below-average teams. There are six teams with a 4-7 record, five with a 6-5 record, and four with a 5-6 record. The Steelers (10) are practically begging to be dropped out of the top 10, but no one is worthy to rise into that elite group.

The Texans (1), Falcons (2) and Niners (3) have maintained stability at the top. At a combined 28-4-1, those three teams continue to roll. Inching closer and closer are the red-hot Patriots. They jump up one spot for the second straight week and sit at No. 4. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers get sacked out of the top five and drop to No. 8.

Week 13’s Monday night matchup should be a much more enjoyable game to watch than last night’s painful display of two equally uninspiring 3-8 teams — the Panthers (27) and Eagles (28). The Giants (7) take on RG3 and the Redskins (15) in an NFC East showdown.

Click here to listen to Mut and Merloni discuss this edition of the Power Rankings.

1. (1) Texans (10-1) ‘€” Ten quarters of football in just five days. It’s amazing they have been able to endure and come out on top in both games. Super Bowl-caliber teams are resilient, and the Texans have proven they can overcome any deficit. Expect the Texans to bounce back defensively next week against the Titans.

2. (2) Falcons (10-1) ‘€” Week after week the Falcons continue to find ways to win, and doubters continue to question if Matt Ryan‘s team is capable of being successful in the playoffs. It’s a fair question due to the fact that Ryan is 0-3 in the postseason, but the Falcons still deserve to be considered one of the best in the NFL since they’ve found a way to win 10 of 11 times this year.

3. (3) 49ers (8-2-1) ‘€” No defense is as physical and dominant as the Niners. San Fran’s D proved its dominance once again against one of the hottest offenses in the league. Going into Sunday’s game, the Saints were clicking on all cylinders in the month of November. They were averaging 32 points per game and Drew Brees had a 72.5 completion percentage with a 125.5 QB rating. Against the Niners, the Saints offense was held to just 21 points (its second-lowest total of the year). Brees’ completion percentage dropped nearly 10 points and his QB rating dropped nearly 40 points. 

4. (5) Patriots (8-3) ‘€” There is just one team in the NFL averaging over 30 points per game, and that’s the New England Patriots. Bill Belichick‘s team has stampeded over opposing defenses and has averaged 37 points per game. The last four games have been even more impressive. The Pats have put up 190 points. That’s more points than the Chiefs, Cardinals, Eagles and Jaguars have scored all season.

5. (6) Ravens (9-2) ‘€” What are they feeding their linebackers in Baltimore? First it was Terrell Suggs remarkably returning from his torn Achilles much earlier than expected. Now, Ray Lewis reportedly will return before the regular season ends after many thought the veteran linebacker’s career might be over due to his triceps injury.

6. (7) Broncos (8-3) ‘€”Peyton Manning helped the Broncos extend their winning streak to six games in Kansas City on Sunday. The Broncos offense sputtered a bit in it’s first game without Willis McGahee. Facing one of the worst run defenses in the game, Knowshon Moreno and Ronnie Hillman rushed for 94 yards. Going into the game, the Chiefs were allowing an average of more than 125 yards.

7. (9) Giants (7-4) ‘€” The Giants did exactly what they had to do coming off their bye week and two straight losses. If they can stay healthy, no team in the NFC will want to face them in the playoffs.

8. (4) Packers (7-4) ‘€” The Packers were forced to reshuffle their offensive line after starting tackle Brian Bulaga was lost for the season. Facing a strong Giants pass rush, Aaron Rodgers was sacked five times. The Packers have a major problem on their hands if the pass protection doesn’t improve.

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Read More: 49ers, aaron rodgers, Colin Kaepernick, Falcons
Jeremy Shockey not short on perspective 08.11.10 at 6:15 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Without his helmet on Tuesday and Wednesday following practice with the Patriots, it was very, very easy to mistake Jeremy Shockey for a young, powerful tight end on the New Orleans Saints. There stood a neatly-groomed, smiling and calm 6’5″ tight end articulating how lucky he was to be playing for a defending Super Bowl champion.

Then a closer look at the tatoos on his right arm and the No. 88 on his white jersey confirmed that one of the most vocal players in the NFL over the last decade was indeed readying himself for Thursday night’s preseason opener with Patriots at Gillette Stadium.

This was a special treat for Shockey and fellow University of Miami alum Brandon Meriweather to get together in a more relaxed setting than the environment both played under when they met last Nov. 30 at the Superdome.

Shockey repeated what his head coach Sean Payton and others said on Tuesday, that the Patriots are what they want to become – a year-in, year-out success in the NFL.

“I think we’ve definitely gotten better,” Shockey said. “Since coming to New Orleans, coach wanted to emulate this team [Patriots] as much as possible and I think this team does a great job on and off the field. I think our team has definitely proven to everyone we’re as notable as the Patriots.”

One way to approach that is by accomplishing what the Patriots did in 2003 and 2004, repeating as Super Bowl champs, the last NFL franchise of the seven to do it. [The Steelers are the only franchise to accomplish it twice]

“There’s only been [seven] teams to win back-to-back and history tells you it’s very hard to do,” Shockey said. “We’re just focused on every day at practice and each and every single time to get better. That’s probably one of the things our team is very good at, concentrating, coming out here to practice against the Patriots, which has been good for us, and I think we’ve definitely gotten something out of it.

“It’s a month away and we still have some work to do. Obviously, it’s early in the preseason and you just have to get better every day, grind it out. It’s something you have to go through.

In answering questions about soreness in his knees, whether that is bothering his him and whether his team is up to the challenge of repeating as Super Bowl champs, Shockey looked to be growing tired of the repetition – much like training camp itself.

“I’m fine,” the 29-year-old Shockey said. “It’s football. You’re going to be sore, you’re going to have knicks and bruises and stuff. I’m not really concerned about that. I’m just concerned about getting better and I think our football has gotten better.”

Read More: 49ers, Broncos, Cowboys, Jeremy Shockey
Trags Take… Pregame 49ers 10.04.08 at 7:57 am ET
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The last time I attempted this, your intrepid reported predicted a no-doubt win for the Patriots.

This time there will be no such bold prognostications, only a suggestion of what to expect as the Patriots get back on track with a win. Can’t help myself.

1. The Patriots will be on alert to stop the big play as the 49ers are second in the NFL with offensive plays over 20 yards and likewise dangerous on third-and-long. But the Patriots showed with the Jets that they are capable of containing an offense led by a quarterback who likes to throw the ball down the field.

2. The reason the 49ers are among the league leaders in converting third-and-long is because they are IN third-and-long a lot. That’s because quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan gets hit, a lot, behind the line of scrimmage. In a loss last week in New Orleans, O’Sullivan was sacked six times. As was the case with Brett Favre, if the corners can do their job, the D-Line should be able to get through and feast on a quarterback that is asked to hold onto the ball till the last second in a Mike Martz system.

3. Receivers need to hold onto the ball. One of the forgotten aspects of the play that ended Tom Brady’s season and changed the entire complexion of the AFC was that Randy Moss caught the ball and was stripped. This weekend, Moss, Wes Welker and everyone else carrying the ball need to be aware that the veteran secondary, led by the likes of Nate Clements, Mark Roman, et al., thrive on separating player from ball.

4. Get a lead and don’t let the atmosphere of Steve Young Number Retirement day at halftime become an issue. Even Bill Belichick realizes that type of ceremony has the potential of “whipping the crowd into a frenzy”.

5. With Laurence Maroney healthy and back in action, feed No. 39 the ball and led him ramble through a run defense giving up an average of 118 yards a game.

Hits and Misses: Some other things to keep a close eye on… Frank Gore. The Patriots defensive coordinator Dean Pees was downright exuberant in his praise of the ‘other’ 21 than can run the ball and do some serious damage.

“It’€™s always a big challenge,” Pees said. “They like to get the ball down field in the passing game. Gore is one heck of a back, I think you hear a lot about a lot of players around the league but I’€™m telling you this guy is a really talented back. Martz has always had a great attack on offense. He likes to get the ball down field, spread you out [and] does a lot of different things so it’€™s always a challenge for a defense.”

With four carries of 20 or more yards in his career, Gore ranks second among active NFL backs behind only Adrian Peterson’s five. The 49ers like to spread the field with their passing game then open lanes for Gore.

Which brings us to another key point to be on the lookout for on Sunday. The Patriots are still smarting from the damage the University of Arkansas Dolphins did to their defense on Sept. 21 at Gillette, using Ronnie Brown as an option on a direct snap. While he has only done it in punt formations in the NFL, Niners running back Michael Robinson ran that at Penn State and might get the chance to do it again on Sunday.

“After a game like Miami, I think you better prepare for it and make sure you have it covered in case someone this week, next week or any week pulls it out,” Belichick said before leaving for the 10-day California trip. “It’€™s giving the other team an incentive to say, ‘€˜Let’s see if they’€™ve got this figured out yet, see if they got it stopped.’€™ So we need to work on it whether they’€™ve shown it or not.”

Final Cuts:

Matt Cassel says it’s great to have Laurence Maroney back from a shoulder injury.

Ellis Hobbs aware of the need to limit big plays by Niners.

Lamont Jordan grew up a fan of the 49ers.

Lamont Jordan thought he would be a quarterback growing up.

Bill Belichick says game will have different flavor this weekend.

Final Take:

Patriots 21, 49ers 17

Read More: 49ers, Laurence Maroney, Patriots, Trags Take
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