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WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 15: Patriots charge to No. 1 12.13.12 at 7:14 am ET
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The mighty have fallen. After seven straight weeks occupying the top two spots, the Texans (4) and Falcons (5) no longer can be called the two best teams in the league. The Patriots surge all the way to the No. 1 spot for the first time this season after a dominating Monday night performance. The 49ers (2) and Broncos (3) round out the new top three.

The Seahawks (9) finally break into the top 10 after winning four of their last five games. Their impressive play of late has catapulted them in front of both the Bears (10) and Steelers (12). The Colts are another team that continues to inch closer into the league’s elite. Andrew Luck has Indy (11) poised to make a playoff appearance after the team won just two games last year.

The top two teams in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings rarely play each other, not to mention in December, but we’ll get to watch the regular-season version of the Super Bowl this Sunday night. That’s not the only top-10 matchup we’ll see in Week 15. The Broncos (3) play the Ravens (8), and the Giants (7) will take on the Falcons (5). We’re in for another interesting week of pro football.

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

New England Patriots 1. (3) Patriots (10-3) — The Patriots defense did what it had to do: improve. Bill Belichick‘s D held the Texans to just 14 points. The only other team in the league that was able to hold Houston to fewer points was the Bears. Under Tom Brady, the Pats have won a remarkable 20 straight home games in the month of December. Super Bowl-caliber teams get better in December and that’s just what New England is doing once again.

San Francisco 49ers 2. (4) 49ers (9-3-1) — The relentless 49ers defense is at the top of the league in pass defense, run defense and points allowed. Sunday night’s matchup pits the best defense in the league against the best offense. Football fans are in for a treat.

Denver Broncos 3. (5) Broncos (10-3) — The way Knowshon Moreno has been able to step up and fill Willis McGahee‘s shoes is very encouraging for Broncos fans. With Peyton Manning at the helm, an effective run game makes the Broncos offense extremely difficult to defend against.

Houston Texans4. (1) Texans (11-2) — Are the Texans good enough to rebound from a loss like this? Their pass defense has officially been exposed. On a big stage, the Texans crumbled. Stupid penalties, turnovers and an overall lack of competitiveness has many across the NFL questioning if this team is as good as its record indicates.

5. (2) Falcons (11-2) — The Falcons have a tremendous opportunity this Sunday to prove to the NFC that they are an elite team. The defending Super Bowl champion Giants will be in Atlanta and both teams have a lot on the line.

Green Bay Packers6. (7) Packers (9-4) — Green Bay has won seven of its last eight and has come storming back to take control of the NFC North. Aaron Rodgers has been terrific, though it has been production from the run game over the last two weeks that has made a huge difference on offense for Green Bay.

7. (8) Giants (8-5) — Keep an eye on the NFC East race and the Giants. New York travels to Atlanta and Baltimore the next two weeks while the Redskins and Cowboys are just one game back and hold a better divisional record.

8. (6) Ravens (9-4) — It’s never a good sign for a playoff team to fire its offensive coordinator in December. Unlike the Patriots and Broncos, the Ravens have played worse as the season has progressed. If recent play is any sign, the Ravens look to be on track for falling just short of the Super Bowl once again.

Seattle Seahawks9. (11) Seahawks (8-5) — There have to be many organizations out there that are extremely jealous of the Seahawks’ recent success. This is a team that not only drafted a quarterback in the third round but started him over Matt Flynn after signing the former backup to a three-year deal. Teams struggling to find a quarterback like the Cardinals, Jets and Bills must be envious. Russell Wilson has played outstanding of late. In his last five games, he’s thrown 10 touchdowns and just one interception.

Chicago Bears10. (9) Bears (8-5) — Jay Cutler‘s health is imperative to the Bears’ success. Everyone watched the Bears go 1-5 last year at the end of the season when Cutler was injured. The starting QB has been sacked 31 times this year and already has suffered a concussion. The offensive line has to get better if this team is going to be successful. Chicago has dropped four of its last five.

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Bruce Arians: ‘You really can’t prepare’ for what Patriots secondary will be 11.15.12 at 11:37 am ET
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Bruce Arians leads an inspired Colts team into Foxboro this weekend. (AP)

FOXBORO — The working assumption this season has been that any team taking on the Patriots will attack the secondary by all means necessary.

And for the most part, that’s been a pretty good idea. The Seahawks and Ravens won games because of it. The Jets and Bills should have.

But for interim head coach Bruce Arians and the Colts, looks can be deceiving. Especially when the personnel could change drastically with an impact player like Aqib Talib.

“Yeah, we played him [in] Tampa Bay two years ago,” Arians said of his 2010 experience as the Steelers offensive coordinator. “I know how talented he is and he’s got a good passion for the game and he’ll be a great addition I think to them.”

Whereas Bill Belichick said Arians has transplanted the Steelers offense to Indianapolis, the same could not be said for Arians and his thoughts on the corner since he has no idea how Belichick plans to use him in the Patriots scheme.

“There’s nothing that I could go show them that I know he is going to do in this defense,” Arians said. “I don’t even know where he’s going to line up. So it would be hard. I think we would just be asking our guys to over-study.

“You don’t know if Patrick [Patrick Chung] is going to play, you don’t know if Aqib is going to play, you just know the coverages and the things that they’ve been doing and then what they’ve done in the past. You try to get your guys ready to play and really concentrate on their own games as much as you do on the opponent’s games. That part of it, until you see who’s active and who’s inactive, you really can’t prepare.”

One player Arians has film of in a Patriots uniform is Devin McCourty, both as a corner and a safety. How much different do the Pats look with McCourty at safety as opposed to corner and how does that alter his preparation heading into the game?

“It really doesn’t,” Arians said. “There’s going to be a blue jersey with whatever number on it playing safety and there’s going to be one playing corner. He is an excellent athlete and when one of your top corners is playing safety you would think there would be a drop off at corner and I think Patrick Chung is an outstanding safety, so there’s a change there. I really couldn’t say either way. Like I said, we’ll get ready for their coverages and wherever they end up lined up and whoever is out there we’ll see at game time and then prepare to attack.”

As for 481 yards the Patriots allowed to the Bills last week? Arians was very tactical in his answer about the weaknesses New England has shown.

“I would throw the statistics out because they’ve got 23 turnovers,” he said. “And when you lead the league in turnover ratio by 16, you’re going to be in first place. They’ve always been a bend-don’t-break group and feasted on turnovers ever since I could remember. There were only a few years when they were totally dominant, but they’ve always been as well coached as anybody in this league. Interceptions, fumbles, kick returns, fake kicks, they’ve got it all and Coach Belichick does as good a job putting his players in position to be successful, offensively and defensively, as anybody that’s ever coached the game.”
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Bill Belichick: Bruce Arians has Colts looking a lot like old Steelers offense 11.14.12 at 9:54 pm ET
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Bill Belichick

Bill Belichick said Wednesday that the new-look Colts offense bears more than a passing resemblance to how Pittsburgh has operated the last few years. That’s no surprise, given the fact that Indy’s offensive coordinator Bruce Arians was with the Steelers from 2004 through last year, serving as Pittsburgh’s offensive coordinator from 2007 until 2011.

Belichick was asked how much of the Pittsburgh offense he sees in what the Colts do.

“A lot. A lot. That’s their offense,” Belichick said. “We played [Pittsburgh] when [Bruce] Arians was there, so we’re familiar with what he did. Those games, [we’re] familiar with how he attacked us. I’m sure you use those games as somewhat of a reference.”

According to Belichick, some of the carryover can be seen at the wide receiver position, where Arians has veteran Reggie Wayne doing many of them same things that Hines Ward did when he was with Pittsburgh.

“They moved [Wayne] around a little in the past — but not much — and now he’s Hines Ward,” Belichick said. “He’s in motion a lot, he’s blocking, he’s cracking, he’s lining up close to the formation, he’s in the slot. He’s doing a lot of things that Hines Ward did in Pittsburgh. It’s interesting to see him in that role, but he’s always been good at whatever he’s done. You see him working the middle of the field on middle reads, on option routes, that kind of thing or working on the perimeter. He’s good at all of it.”

Here are some other highlights of Belichick’s Wednesday afternoon Q&A:
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