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WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 17 12.29.10 at 8:17 am ET
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The regular season is wrapping up, and for the first time this year, the Patriots are alone with the best record in the NFL. Tom Brady and his mistake-free Patriots are riding a seven-game winning streak and reside in the No. 1 spot in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings for the seventh straight week.

The Ravens fly north to the No. 2 spot which was previously occupied by the Falcons (5). The Saints (3) come marching into the top five after a Monday night win in Atlanta. Joining them among the league’s elite are the Steelers (4). They’ll need a win against the Browns to clinch the AFC North and a first-round bye.

Week 17 promises to be exciting, with many of the games having playoff implications. The Packers (8) will play the Bears (6) for a chance to secure the final wild card spot in the NFC. Meanwhile, the Giants (12) will play the Redskins (25) and hope the Packers lose for their opportunity to reach the playoffs. The Sunday night game features the Rams (17) and Seahawks (26) fighting for the NFC West crown.

1. (1) 13-2 Home-field advantage is officially secured throughout the playoffs for the Patriots ‘€” giving them two weeks off from playing a meaningful game. The Pats will have the luxury of resting their starters Sunday if Bill Belichick chooses to do so. A well-rested, Belichick-coached, Brady-led Patriots team is a scary thing for any opponent that has to go into New England during the playoffs.

2. (4) 11-4 The Ravens are a Super Bowl contender for sure. They have veteran leadership on defense, have a great run game, and will go into the playoffs knowing they are the only team to beat a Brady-led Patriots team at Gillette Stadium during the postseason.

3. (7) 11-4 The defending Super Bowl champs will cruise into the playoffs with lots of momentum. The Saints have won seven of their last eight games and managed to give Matt Ryan just his second loss at home in three years. Drew Brees will have to protect the football better in the playoffs if the Saints want to have a real shot at reaching Dallas. Last year the veteran quarterback threw just 11 interceptions; he already has 21 in 2010.

4. (6) 11-4 The Steelers can clinch the AFC North and a first-round bye with a win against the Browns on Sunday. Don’t forget, Pittsburgh lost to Cleveland last year in December, preventing the Steelers from making the playoffs. You can be sure the Browns will be looking to beat their division rival again and knock them down a few seeds in the playoffs.

5. (2) 12-3 The NFC South title and the No. 1 seed in the conference can be wrapped up with a victory against the two-win Panthers on Sunday. The Falcons need to bounce back from their tough loss to the Saints. The reason why the Falcons have been so successful this year is because they protect the football and have a balanced offense. In Monday night’s loss they made a key turnover and had a lack of production from the run game.

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WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 16 12.21.10 at 6:48 am ET
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The top two teams in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings are on the verge of clinching the No. 1 seed in their respective conference. The Patriots (1) and Falcons (2) are cruising through the regular season and are poising themselves for a playoff run. The Falcons will collide with their division rival New Orleans Saints (7) on Monday Night Football in Week 16.

Moving on up are the Eagles (3), the Ravens (4), and the Jets (5). All three of those teams were victorious against playoff caliber opponents over the weekend. Meanwhile, the G-Men fall to No. 10 after their giant collapse against the Eagles at home.

A playoff spot is on the line in the NFC West and no team in that division ranks higher than No. 21 in the rankings. The Rams (21), 49ers (24), and Seahawks (25) will battle it out over the next two weeks for the NFC West crown. It is impossible for any of those teams to have a record over .500.

1. (1) 12-2 It wasn’t the prettiest victory but every year people say “Super Bowl caliber teams find ways to win games.” The most important quality about this team is that they continue to protect the football. The Patriots have nine total turnovers and a quarterback that hasn’t thrown an interception since Week 6. The three-time Super Bowl champs are one win away from locking up the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

2. (2) 12-2 Matt Ryan and the Falcons have won eight straight games and continue to play well in all areas of the game. They are extremely balanced on offense and do a great job creating turnovers on defense. The Falcons are one win away from clinching the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

3. (5) 10-4 It doesn’t matter what the other team did to choke the game away, the Eagles came back from a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter and found a way to win the game. This win will certainly be a momentum booster as Mike Vick and the Eagles soar into the playoffs . I think it’s safe to say that no team in the NFC will want to face them in the playoffs.

4. (6) 10-4 Ray Rice proved that the Ravens offensive game plan should go through him. The third-year running back had 153 yards on the ground and 80 yards receiving. The Ravens will certainly have to rely on Rice going forward into the playoffs. After a mediocre performance last week on defense, they were able to get solid pressure on Drew Brees and force a key interception late in the fourth-quarter.

5. (8) 10-4 Mark Sanchez and the Jets offense returned against one of the best defenses in the game. The Jets scored their first offensive touchdown in 12 quarters. What was also impressive was the way the Jets defense stepped up during the closing seconds of the game and stopped the Steelers from scoring a touchdown. This was a quality win on the road from the Jets.

6. (3) 10-4 The Steelers D needs Troy Polamalu on the field to be be the dominating defense we’re all accustomed to seeing. The defensive unit looks completely different without No. 43 patrolling the secondary.  Luckily for the Steelers, they can afford to let Polamalu rest up for the playoffs if they choose to do so. Their final two games are against two last place teams, the Panthers and the Browns.

7. (4) 10-4 Defending the Vince Lombardi trophy will certainly be a lot harder now that the division seems almost impossible for the Saints to win. The Saints will most likely have to play on the road during the playoffs.

8. (10) 10-4 The NFC North champions now turn their focus on getting the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs. If the Bears win their remaining two games against the Jets and Packers, they will have that opportunity.

9. (9) 8-6 The Chargers are rolling– they’ve won six of their last seven games. The pass rush has stepped up in a huge way. In their latest win, the Chargers D sacked 49ers quarterback Alex Smith six times.

10. (7) 9-5 Giants players and coaches need to put their heartbreaking loss behind them or they might not even make the playoffs. The Giants have an extremely big game against the Packers this Sunday and playoff implications are on the line. Defensively, they’ve played well against Michael Vick and need to use the potential of getting another shot at the Eagles in the playoffs as motivation.

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WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 15 12.14.10 at 8:05 am ET
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Tom Brady and the Patriots sit atop the WEEI NFL Power Rankings for the fifth straight week. After another dominating performance against a nine-win team, the Patriots are clearly the best team in football fourteen weeks into the season. The Falcons are at No. 2 for a second straight week and share the best record in the NFL with New England.

Week 15 will bring many key matchups that will have serious playoff implications. The Jaguars (12) will travel to Indianapolis to take on the Colts (13) in a battle for the AFC South. The Giants (7) will get their rematch against the Eagles (5) and will fight for sole possession of first place in the NFC East.

The Packers (11) and Chiefs (14) both dropped after losses and uncertainity at the quarterback position. Both teams are fighting for a playoff spot but are also dealing with injuries to their starting QB.

1. (1) 11-2 The Patriots have wins against almost every team in playoff contention in the AFC. The Ravens, Chargers, Steelers, Colts, and Jets have all tasted defeat at the hands of Tom Brady and the Pats. In the last two weeks, against nine-win teams, the Patriots have outscored their opponent 81-10. Bill Belichick’s team also has not turned the ball over in five straight games. If the above doesn’t sound like a Super Bowl caliber team, I don’t know what does.

2. (2) 11-2 Offensively, the Falcons can beat teams with the run or the pass. Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, and Roddy White are consistently putting up big numbers. Ryan has over 3,000 yards passing, Turner has over 1,100 yards rushing, and Roddy White has over 1,200 yards receiving.

3. (3) 10-3 Teams can not run against Pittsburgh. The Steelers are ranked first in the league in run defense; they allow 60 yards per-game on average. One concern for the Steelers should be the health of Ben Roethlisberger. “Big Ben” has been taking a beating back in the pocket. His offensive line needs to protect its quarterback a lot better.

4. (4) 10-3 The Saints offense is clicking. They’ve put up 30 or more points in five straight games.  Perhaps, their biggest test of the season so far will come this Sunday against the Ravens in Baltimore. The Saints will need to win and extend their six-game winning streak if they want to have a realistic chance of winning the NFC South.

5. (8) 9-4 The Vick-McCoy-Jackson combination can take the Eagles all the way to the Super Bowl. That’s of course if they can keep Michael Vick healthy. The 30-year-old quarterback continually gets nailed by opposing defenders.

6. (5) 8-4 The Ravens should be concerned about their defense giving up 21-straight points in the second half and how tired they looked late in the fourth quarter.

7. (10) 9-4 The Giants last loss came against the Eagles in Philadelphia. This Sunday they’ll be looking for revenge at home. The last time these two teams met, the G-Men defended Michael Vick well but beat themselves with five turnovers. If they can protect the ball, the Giants may find themselves sitting atop the NFC East when Week 15 is in the books.

8. (6) 9-4 It just may be time to push the panic button in New York. Rex Ryan’s second-year quarterback, Mark Sanchez, has turned the ball over in nine straight games. Meanwhile, the Jets receivers continue to drop passes in key moments. Looking ahead, the Jets have two very tough matchups in the next two weeks. They travel to Pittsburgh and then to Chicago.

9. (12) 7-6 The Chargers have a “cupcake” regular season schedule remaining. They are playing teams with a combined record of 10-29. The “Super” Chargers have a strong possibility of finishing the year 10-6.

10. (7) 9-4 The Bears were outmatched and embarrassed at home last Sunday against the Patriots. They played horrible on both sides of the football. Luckily for them, they still have two games against divisional opponents and are able to control their own destiny.

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WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 14 12.08.10 at 10:01 am ET
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For the fourth straight week, the Patriots rule in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. The Pats‘ 45-3 clobbering of the Jets makes Bill Belichick‘s team the clear-cut favorite for the No. 1 spot. Soaring not far behind are the Falcons at No. 2. The Patriots will defend their top spot against the Bears (7) in Chicago this Sunday while the Falcons have the pleasure of traveling to North Carolina to take on the Panthers (32).

Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers (3)  jump back into the top five after their huge road win against the Ravens (5).  Marching in at No. 4 are the defending champion Saints.

The Colts have lost four of their last five games and continue to take a nose-dive in the rankings. Their only win in that stretch came against the 2-10 Bengals (31). Peyton Manning and the defending AFC champions drop to 14.

The bottom seven teams remain the same as all of them suffered another loss in Week 13.

1. (1) 10-2 The Patriots are in first place because they continue to win the turnover battle. Tom Brady hasn’t thrown an interception in his last seven games. The Pats are also atop their conference with a plus-14 in the giveaway/takeaway differential category. If the Pats can lock up home-field advantage and a first-round bye, it’s tough not to like their chances of reaching yet another Super Bowl. The Brady-Belichick combination is just too difficult to beat when playing in Foxboro during the playoffs.

2. (3) 10-2 Matt Ryan has led the Falcons to six fourth-quarter comeback drives. The Falcons have one of the most balanced offensive game plans in football. They can run and pass the ball effectively. Two of their remaining four games are against the 1-11 Panthers. That makes the Falcons’ chances of winning the NFC and gaining home-field advantage throughout the playoffs very good.

3. (6) 9-3 The offensive line is in shambles. The latest injury for the Steelers comes to starting right tackle Flozell Adams. He suffered a high ankle sprain in Sunday night’s slugfest against the Ravens. Roethlisberger needs better protection if the Steelers want to go deep into the playoffs.

4. (5) 9-3 The defending champs have won five straight games and are in a race for the NFC South division. They’ll also be adding more firepower to their offense. Pierre Thomas is set to return after suffering an injury in the first month of the season.

5. (4) 8-4 The Ravens crumpled in the fourth quarter and gave up 10 unanswered points to the Steelers. The loss to Pittsburgh puts them in a tough position going forward as they will likely have to settle for a wild card playoff spot.

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WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 13 11.30.10 at 7:08 am ET
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The battle for the AFC East title and the No. 1 spot in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings will be on the line in Week 13 at Gillette Stadium. For the third straight week, the Patriots (No.1), the Jets (No. 2), and the Falcons (No. 3) control the top three spots. That will surely change next week after the Pats and Jets collide. Tom Brady will be trying to break Brett Favre’s consecutive regular season home-game winning streak while the Jets will fight to stay unbeaten on the road.

The AFC East won’t be the only division up for grabs in Week 13. The Ravens (No. 4) and the Steelers (No. 6) will face off in a showdown themselves. The winning team will be in the driver’s seat to take the division and have a first-round playoff bye.

Continuing to climb are the Chargers (No. 9). There is something about the second-half of the season that flips a switch for Philip Rivers and crew. The “Super Chargers” have rattled off four straight wins.

Down in the bottom of the barrel, the last five teams have a new member. The embattled Denver Broncos come crashing down to No. 28.

1. (1) 9-2 The Patriots have scored more points this season than any other team in the NFL. Tom Brady and the offense are ranked third in the league after completing 45 percent of their third-down conversions. On the other side of the ball, Bill Belichick should be concerned about the amount of yards his defense has given up. The Patriots rank 31st in the NFL in total yards allowed. This team has relied on their ability to force turnovers. Their 15 interceptions lead the AFC.

2. (2) 9-2 Every good team must win on the road and the Jets certainly know how to do that. Dating back to last year, the Jets have won eight in a row on the road. Their most difficult task away from the Meadowlands will come this Monday night in Foxboro. Mark Sanchez has thrown an interception in six straight games after throwing none in the first five games of the season. Sanchez will have to protect the football against a very opportunistic Patriots defense if he wants to give his team a chance to win.

3. (3) 9-2 Matt Ryan is quickly becoming one of the top quarterbacks in the league. The BC alum has five game-winning drives this season. He’s also an extremely accurate passer and has only been intercepted five times. The Falcons are in a prime position to take the No. 1 seed in the NFC. If they can lock up home-field advantage in the playoffs, they’ll be the favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Ryan is 19-1 inside the Georgia Dome.

4. (5) 8-3 The Ravens are entering the last month of the season playing extremely well on defense. They’ve given up 23-total points in their last two games. Ray Lewis and crew must take that momentum into their AFC North game against the Steelers this Sunday.

5. (8) 8-3 The defending Super Bowl champs were successful last year because they caused turnovers in key moments of the game. On Thanksgiving, we saw the Saints once again make a turnover to save a game. This team plays smart football and is well coached. That’s just one of the reasons they’ll be extremely difficult to beat in the playoffs.

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WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 12 11.23.10 at 8:21 am ET
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The AFC East is the cream of the crop once again in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. The Patriots and Jets remain the top dogs for the second straight week. The division rivals are on a collision course to fight it out for first place when they face off in New England on Dec. 6.

For the first time this year, every team in the top five was victorious. In fact, eight of the top 10 teams came out of Week 11 with a win. Despite losing, the Colts (No. 9) and the Giants (10) stay put in their respective spots, keeping the top 10 intact.

Week 12 certainly will cause some major movement in the rankings. There are many marquee matchups ahead. The Packers (No. 7) will face the Falcons (3), the 7-3 Eagles (4) will face the 7-3 Bears (11), and the red-hot Chargers (12) will face the struggling Colts (9).

The Bengals plummet all the way to the No. 31 spot while the Panthers are getting comfortable at No. 32.

1. (1) 8-2 We’re seeing typical Patriots football from the 2010 Pats. They take away what the opposing team does well and find a way to win each week. Last week, they held the potent Rashard Mendenhall to just 50 yards on the ground. In the win over the Colts, they made Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis non-factors. On defense, they are making big plays when needed most. The Pats have a total of 18 takeaways.

2. (2) 8-2 In a league in which it is extremely difficult to win on the road, the Jets are 5-0 away from the Meadowlands. Surprisingly, the Jets offense has been the story of this team in 2010. The poise Mark Sanchez has shown in the past few weeks has been impressive. The second-year quarterback’s ability to win games in the closing minutes has to be something Jets fans are extremely pleased with.

3. (3) 8-2 Atlanta is in a three-way tie for the best record in the NFL. Offensively, it looks like the Falcons are getting into a good rhythm. They have an extremely balanced attack between the pass and run. Michael Turner rushed for 131 yards Sunday while Matt Ryan threw for 253 yards and two touchdowns.

4. (4) 7-3 That’s back-to-back division wins for the Eagles, who are in prime position to take the NFC East. Sunday night’s game showed that the offense isn’t the only unit on the team that can help win games. Philly’s D played great again. This is an extremely aggressive and opportunistic defense. On Sunday night the Eagles picked off Eli Manning three times and held him to a quarterback rating of 53.5.

5. (5) 7-3 The Ravens have learned getting Ray Rice the ball is one of the most important things they can do offensively. Rice had 65 yards on the ground and 66 receiving yards Sunday. On defense, the Ravens continue to hold their opponents to a low number of points. The Ravens allow an average of just 17.8-points per game.

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WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 11 11.16.10 at 6:34 am ET
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Fresh off a dominating win in Pittsburgh, Tom Brady and the Patriots soar back to the No. 1 slot in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. The 2010 NFL season has been a strange one to say the least. There has yet to be a team to emerge as one of the league’s elite. However, a few teams have shown signs of greatness. The New York Jets (No. 2) fall into that category. The J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets irked out another victory in overtime and are on the doorstep of being called “the best”.

Two NFC teams jump into the top five. Michael Vick’s former team (Falcons No. 3) and his current team (Eagles No. 4)  represent the NFC well at the top. Matt Ryan and the Falcons won again at home against a strong Ravens squad. Meanwhile, the Eagles dominated their game against the Redskins in which they opened up the first quarter with 28 points (the best start for a road team, ever).

Finally, the No. 32 spot is occupied by a new owner. After a Bills victory, the Carolina Panthers now have the unpleasant title of “Worst team in the league”.

1. (5) 7-2 Every NFL team has a bad game. It’s how they respond the following week that shows how good they really are. The Pats once again bounced back from a loss, learned from their mistakes, and put a W in the column. Under the leadership of Bill Belichick, the Patriots are now 23-2 following a loss since 2003. The win in Pittsburgh is by-far their most impressive this year. They played physical, mistake-free football and made a statement across the league.

2. (3) 7-2 The Jets have overcome their poor play and mistakes the past two weeks on the road and have come out victorious both times. This team finds ways to win and that’s a trait of a great football team. They still have areas to improve in but you have to give Rex Ryan’s club credit for pulling through. The progression of Mark Sanchez from his rookie year to this year has to make other AFC teams concerned.

3. (6) 7-2 The Falcons showed a lot of grit coming back from a 13-point lead late in the fourth quarter. Great teams are able to overcome those types of deficits against worthy opponents. The Falcons proved that they should be in the conversation of “best team in football right now.”

4. (9) 6-3 Wow. Just an unbelievable performance Monday night from the Eagles offense. This Mike Vick led offense is a scoring machine and a nightmare to defend. The Eagles showed Monday they can put up an abundant amount of points in a short period of time. Vick has established that he can now pass the ball just as well as he can run it.

5. (1) 6-3 Last week’s No. 1 team played well and was on the brink of victory on the road in Atlanta. In a year when no team has emerged as elite, the Ravens still should be considered one of the best in the league.   Read the rest of this entry »

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