|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.
|WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 8: Falcons stay on top, Ravens tumble||10.23.12 at 9:22 am ET|
Matt Ryan and the Falcons survive another week at the top of the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. The undefeated Falcons had the week off and will try to improve to 7-0 when they take on the Eagles. The Texans jump the Giants (3) and reclaim the No. 2 position. The only team to drop out of the top five was the depleted Ravens. A blowout loss and an endless amount of injuries was enough to drop Baltimore to No. 8.
The NFC is dominating the top five with four teams occupying spots. At the other end of the spectrum, the AFC is in full control taking up four of the bottom five positions.
Could the top ten teams be safe for another week? None of them will play a fellow top-ranked team. Week 8′s most intriguing games include the Falcons at Eagles, the Giants at Cowboys and the Saints at Broncos.
1. (1) Falcons (6-0) — The undefeated Falcons saw defensive tackle Corey Peters return to practice Monday for the first time this year. The 6 foot 3, 300-pound defensive lineman should help improve the run defense which is currently ranked 28th in the league.
2. (3) Texans (6-1) — The Texans got their first win against an opponent over .500 on Sunday. It was against an injury-plagued Ravens team but it still was a very impressive victory. Houston ranks in the top of the league in many different offensive and defensive statistical categories.
3. (2) Giants (5-2) — If your team is trailing or tied in the fourth quarter, Eli Manning is the quarterback you want behind center. For the 27th time in his career, the Giants QB led his team on a game-winning drive when he hit Victor Cruz for a 77-yard touchdown pass Sunday against the Redskins.
4. (5) 49ers (5-2) — They don’t have an elite offense and a top three quarterback but the Niners are still an extremely entertaining team to watch. They play a different brand of football than what we’ve grown accustomed to watching in the NFL. This team plays tough, is extremely physical, and loves running the ball down the opponents throat.
5. (6) Packers (4-3) — Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense has come alive over the past two weeks. They’ve scored 72 points in two games and that’s without Greg Jennings. They did suffer a crushing blow with the injury to Charles Woodson. The Packers defensive captain is expected to miss six weeks.
6. (7) Bears (5-1) — The Bears defense can carry the team into the playoffs if Jay Cutler continues to protect the football. The Bears have outscored their opponents by a total of 84 points this season and are allowing an average of just 13 points per game on defense.
7. (8) Patriots (4-3) — The Patriots pass defense is horrendous and the team’s inability to close games is certainly alarming, however if the past has taught us anything, Bill Belichick‘s team will improve. The Pats are 16-2 the last two years once November hits and are undefeated in December. This team has to get better in a lot of different areas but they have plenty of time to do so in a mediocre division.
8. (4) Ravens (5-2) — The Ravens have been decimated by injuries and that caught up with them against the Texans. However, a lack of Ray Rice has also contributed to the loss and that is usually the case when Rice’s carries are limited. Rice had just four carries in four drives in the first quarter and two carries in the second quarter. John Harbaugh has to utilize his best offensive weapon more.
9. (10) Broncos (3-3) — Peyton Manning has thrown for over 300 yards in each of his last four games and has 11 touchdown passes with just one interception in that span as well. John Elway‘s gamble on Manning has paid off so far. The Broncos are easily the most well-rounded team in their division.
10. (11) Steelers (3-3) — Not even injuries could prevent the Steelers from evening up their record at 3-3. They had standout performances from a third-string running back, Jonathan Dwyer, and a heavily criticized cornerback, Ike Taylor. Dwyer rushed for over 100 yards and Taylor held AJ Green to just one catch.
11. (9) Seahawks (4-3) — The Seahawks are in a division filled with some of the best defensive teams in the league. The passing offense must improve. Seahawks receivers dropped five passes against the Niners on Thursday night. Having a strong defense is important but you have to be able to put points on the board as well and Seattle ranks 31st in the league in average points scored.
12. (13) Eagles (3-3) — Coming off their bye week, it’s obvious where the Eagles need to improve most — turnovers. The team is on pace to turn the ball over 45 times this season.
13. (14) Cowboys (3-3) — Jason Garrett‘s squad stymied a two-game losing streak but lost offensive lineman Phil Costa in the process. That’s a tough loss to an already shaky line. The Cowboys have a key divisional game against the Giants Sunday and they’ll attempt to take the season series.
14. (16) Vikings (5-2) — It’s always important to put a W in the column but Christian Ponder‘s play of late has been alarming. He’s been making some real questionable decisions with the ball and has thrown two interceptions in each of his last three games.
|WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 7: Patriots fall to No. 8||10.16.12 at 9:59 am ET|
The cliche “any given Sunday” has never seemed more true in the NFL. The one constant has been the undefeated Falcons, who reign supreme in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings for the fourth straight week. Other than the Falcons, the elite teams we’re used to seeing steamroll through the league do not exist anymore. The Patriots (8) and Packers (6) both have three losses; the Saints (17) have four. Meanwhile, surprising teams including the Seahawks (9), Cardinals (12) and Vikings (15) have four wins. There is parity throughout the league and that has made this season even more exciting and unpredictable than years past.
The once prestigious AFC East has turned into a division of mediocrity. All four teams are 3-3. The Patriots are the only AFC East team in the top 10 at No. 8. The Jets stand still at No. 20 while the Dolphins (21) and Bills (24) both jump up a few spots after victories. It’s amazing how quickly things have changed. The NFC West now has three of its four teams in the top 12.
Looking at the AFC, the entire conference is 3-3 or worse aside from the Texans and Ravens. Four teams represent the AFC in the top 10. That could change after Week 7 when the top two teams in the conference clash.
1. (1) Falcons (6-0) — They call him “Matty Ice” for a reason. Since his rookie season in 2008, Matt Ryan has 13 fourth-quarter comebacks and 19 game-winning drives. If we’ve learned anything from past dominant teams in the league, we know that it’s all about coming away with a victory rather than the way it looks.
2. (8) Giants (4-2) — Eli Manning and the Giants offense were able to move the ball with ease against one of the best defenses in the league. The defending Super Bowl champs showed the other 31 teams that they’re a serious threat to repeat.
3. (2) Texans (5-1) — The Texans failed their first real test of the season, and they failed miserably. The loss of Brian Cushing on defense proved to be a major blow on Sunday night when the Packers embarrassed the Texans D with six touchdowns. They’ll have another tough test Sunday against the Ravens.
4. (4) Ravens (5-1) —The Ravens have just been decimated with injuries — especially on defense. Ray Lewis is the latest Ravens player to drop. His leadership and guidance on the field can’t be replaced and certainly will have a major impact on the beleaguered Ravens D. Cornerback Lardarius Webb also is out for the year.
5. (3) 49ers (4-2) — Alex Smith has enjoyed recent success because of the way he protected the ball and didn’t turn it over. He had a total of five interceptions last season. In 2012, Smith already has four. Three of them came last Sunday against the Giants. It was the first time the Niners QB threw more than one interception in a game since Oct. 10, 2010.
6. (7) Packers (3-3) — The Packers offense erupted Sunday night and finally showed what everyone thought it was capable of. Aaron Rodgers felt vindicated after throwing six touchdown passes and quieting all of his doubters. Unfortunately for the Packers, the win came at a price. The team already was without key contributors Greg Jennings and B.J. Raji. Starting linebackers Nick Perry and D.J. Smith have been added to the team’s long injury list.
7. (6) Bears (4-1) — The Bears will immediately be tested coming off their bye week when they take on NFC North rival Detroit. Right now, the division is the Bears to lose. They should take advantage of the early lead they’ve built because the Packers aren’t going to lay down.
8. (5) Patriots (3-3) —The Patriots’ inability to close out games has become alarming. Bill Belichick‘s team already has matched its loss total from 2011. It’s evident the secondary still is among the worst in the league. The Patriots should still win the division, but fans will be looking to see improvement as the season continues.
9. (16) Seahawks (4-2) — Pete Carroll‘s Seahawks have developed a never-give-up identity that has propelled them to a 4-2 record. Three of those four wins have come against the Packers, Patriots and Cowboys. Backed by a hard-hitting secondary, the Seahawks have proven they can play with some of the best teams in the league.
10. (11) Broncos (3-3) — It doesn’t get much sweeter heading into a bye week. The Broncos need to build on the momentum they’ve established and use it to their advantage the second half of the season. They all believe Peyton Manning is capable of leading them on a Super Bowl run, and they should. The veteran has been tremendous since his return.
11. (9) Steelers (2-3) — The Steelers have been outscored 40-16 in the fourth quarter in their three losses this season. Those losses have all come against teams under .500. The lack of depth on the offensive line is alarming. The latest injury on the line came to center Maurkice Pouncey, who likely will be out against the Bengals in Week 7.
12. (10) Cardinals (4-2) — The one constant in Arizona is the quarterback carousel that continues to go round and round. One of the main reasons is that quarterback protection is a major weakness on this team. Kevin Kolb‘s injured ribs might keep him out of next week’s game against the Vikings.
|WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 6: Patriots return to top 5||10.09.12 at 10:19 am ET|
For the third straight week the Falcons (1), Texans (2) and 49ers (3) remain at the top of the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. At a combined 14-1, those teams have one major thing in common: balance. They are strong on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
One team that is no stranger to the top five is the Patriots. Tom Brady and company hop back in at No. 5 after a three-week absence. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are the latest team to get bounced after their loss to the Colts. Green Bay drops to No. 7.
One division that has gone from rags to riches is the NFC West. The 49ers (3), Cardinals (10), Seahawks (16) and Rams (25) are all bolstered by solid defense and are progressing week to week.
Week 6 has the potential to be the most impactful week yet. In a rematch of the NFC championship, the 49ers will be out for revenge against the Giants (8). Meanwhile, the Texans will battle the Packers as Green Bay attempts to avoid dropping to 2-4.
1. (1) Falcons (5-0) — Matt Ryan has led the Falcons to their first 5-0 start in franchise history. Mike Smith‘s team put up 17 points in the fourth quarter to remain perfect. Great teams win close games and find ways to prevail. The Falcons have proven they are capable of that so far.
2. (2) Texans (5-0) — The pulse of the Texans defense may be out for the year. The early reports suggest Brian Cushing suffered a torn ACL in Monday night’s win over the Jets, and that could be a crippling blow.
3. (3) 49ers (4-1) — The Niners have outscored their opponents 79-3 in their last two games. That’s a pretty remarkable statistic. It shows how dominant this team is but also how terrible the Jets and Bills are as well. They’ll face some real competition next week against the Giants but there are reasons to be concerned. Alex Smith has a sprained middle finger on his throwing hand.
4. (5) Ravens (4-1) — It wasn’t pretty but the Ravens improved to 4-1 without scoring a touchdown. Ray Rice rushed for over 100 yards and that usually means a Ravens victory. Baltimore is 13-2 when Rice rushes for over 100 yards. For John Harbaugh, the formula to victory is simple: Get Ray Rice the rock.
5. (7) Patriots (3-2) — As long as the defense remains opportunistic, the Patriots will continue to roll. The defense has forced key turnovers in crucial moments throughout the season. A solid giveaway/takeaway number is usually a great indicator of how good a team really is, and the Pats and the Falcons top the NFL with a plus-10.
|WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 5: Falcons retain crown||10.02.12 at 7:09 am ET|
For the first time in this still-young season, the No. 1-ranked team retains its crown. “Matty Ice” and the Falcons improve to 4-0 and stay atop the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. The Texans are breathing down their neck at No. 2. In an extremely close race, strength of schedule was the deciding factor in crowning the Falcons supreme for the second straight week.
The top 10 also stayed relatively the same with a few teams moving up and down. The Cardinals (6), Patriots (7) and Broncos (8) all jumped one spot.
Every team ranked 21 through 32 in last week’s rankings lost in Week 4, aside from the Colts (bye week). The 0-4 Browns maintain their spot at the bottom of the pack.
Looking ahead to Week 5 there are three games that could have a significant impact on the rankings. The Eagles will play the Steelers in the Battle of Pennsylvania, the Broncos face the Patriots, and the Chargers will take on a Saints team in search of its first win of the season.
1. (1) Falcons (4-0) — Great teams are resilient, and the Falcons proved that on Sunday. Matt Ryan didn’t flinch when he was forced to start a game-winning drive on his 1-yard line. The true measure of a team is how it performs in pressure situations, and the Falcons answered the call.
2. (2) Texans (4-0) — Week after week the Texans show why they are one of the most complete teams in football. They score the second most points per game and they give up the least amount of points on defense.
3. (3) 49ers (3-1) — Coming off a tough loss, the 49ers were out to make a statement against the Jets. They certainly didn’t disappoint. The smothering defense of the Niners completely overmatched the beleaguered Jets offense.
4. (4) Packers (2-2) — It took a game against one of the worst defenses in the league, but Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense finally performed at a high level. Cedric Benson certainly was a factor; he averaged close to five yards per carry. Although they won by the skin of their teeth, the Packers showed they can handle adversity and come out on top. The referees haven’t been kind to Green Bay over the last two weeks.
5. (5) Ravens (3-1) — The Ravens survived a difficult two-game stretch in which they played New England on Sunday night and then were right back at it on Thursday against a divisional opponent. What has stood out most about the Ravens through four games is their offense. Torey Smith, Anquan Bolden and Ray Rice have made it easy for Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense to average 30 points per game.
6. (7) Cardinals (4-0) — You have to give credit to the Cardinals for battling back and finding a way to win, but they still have a lot of work to do. Kevin Kolb was sacked eight times in the victory over the Dolphins.
7. (8) Patriots (2-2) — The Patriots are only going to get better as the season goes along. The league should give them their division championship T-shirts tomorrow. The AFC East is a disgrace.
8. (9) Broncos (2-2) — Peyton Manning’s return to the NFL has been anything but easy. The veteran quarterback has already faced the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams in this poll, plus he has to face the Patriots Sunday. Manning is being tested early and that will help him in the long run.
|WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 3: Patriots plummet to No. 7||09.18.12 at 9:52 am ET|
For the third straight week, a new team climbs to the top of the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. The 49ers now have the throne as they come off two dominant performances against playoff teams. The Patriots’ reign at No. 1 didn’t last long and they drop to No. 7 after a shocking loss to the Cardinals at home.
Balance is the key attribute to the top three teams. The 49ers (1), Texans (2) and Falcons (3) all have great defenses to go along with a strong offense.
The Saints continue to march in the wrong direction and fall all the way to No. 18. Meanwhile, the 2-0 Eagles jump all the way to No. 5 after a huge win over the Ravens.
More change is in store for the teams in the top 10. Two of the powerhouses of the AFC, the Patriots and Ravens, will face off on Sunday night. One team will bounce back after suffering a loss in Week 2 while the other will fall a game below .500.
Check back here next Tuesday to see how all 32 teams rise and fall. Here are the rankings, with last week’s rank in parentheses:
1. (2) 49ers (2-0) — It’s clear, the 49ers are the best team in the league. Jim Harbaugh‘s team doesn’t seem to have a weakness. The Niners have a strong run game, a formidable passing attack and an elite defense. Alex Smith has completed over 70 percent of his passes and has been protecting the ball well.
2. (4) Texans (2-0) — The Texans took care of business in Week 2 and improved to 2-0. It’s tough to gauge how good this team really is after Houston played two extremely weak opponents. It will be fun to watch the Texans against Peyton Manning and the Broncos next week. Read the rest of this entry »
|Mike Mayock feels Patriots need to add defense, a receiver in NFL draft||02.15.12 at 4:02 pm ET|
NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock held a conference call with reporters Wednesday afternoon. The Patriots are picking 28th and 31st overall in the first round and have two picks in the second round, and Mayock said they would be wise to focus on defense early.
“They have two picks in the first round — what a surprise,” Mayock said. “Bill [Belichick] is a master at letting the board come to him, so I don’t even think Bill will know really until that last week prior to the draft what specific players he’s interested in. The way I look at it is it’s got to be all about defense. You’re sitting there with two picks, with the ability to move up, down or stay at 27 and 31. In a league where it’s a pass-first league, I was kind of happy to see the return of defense in the playoffs and the Super Bowl, but let’s be honest about it — there are a lot of teams, including the Patriots, that want a track meet every week, which means you have to rush the quarterback and you have to defend on the back end. I think those are the two areas of need that kind of cry out for some help in the draft for the Patriots.”
Mayock said that when it comes to offense, the Pats should focus on getting a vertical receiever. He noted that he believes the draft features four first-round receivers, and many big receivers who need to run well at next week’s combine to prove their worth.
“[Wes] Welker has had career years and those two tight ends are exceptional, which has kind of changed the way a lot of people look at offense in this league,” Mayock said. “I think you have to give Bill and his coaching staff a lot of credit for crafting what they’ve crafted with that offense. However, having said that, between Welker and the tight ends, they’re based in the middle of the field more than they are vertically. I think a vertical wide receiver could really help them.”
As for projected first overall pick Andrew Luck, Mayock said the Stanford quarterback is “not Tom Brady or Peyton Manning,” but that he is a better prospect than the likes of Matt Ryan and Cam Newton have been in recent years.
2013 PATRIOTS DRAFT PICKS
2013 NFL DRAFT
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