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WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 9: Cream continues to rise 10.31.12 at 12:15 am ET
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How powerful are the top 10 teams in this week’s WEEI NFL Power Rankings? Well, powerful enough to have gone a perfect 8-0 in Week 8 (the Texans (2) and Ravens (8) had byes). Remarkably, the top 10 stayed the same for the second week in a row. Matt Ryan and the Falcons have been at the No. 1 slot for five straight weeks.

On the other side, teams positioned from Nos. 11-19 in last week’s rankings weren’t as lucky. They combined for an 0-9 record in Week 8. The Eagles (16) and Jets (24) both fell significantly after suffering embarrassing losses.

We’re halfway through the season and some teams have overachieved while others have disappointed greatly. At the start of the season, no one would have thought the game between the Dolphins (15) and Colts (25) in Week 9 would have any playoff implications — but astonishingly enough, it does. On the other hand, the Saints (19) and Panthers (30) haven’t come close to living up to expectations. Those two teams have a combined 3-11 record.

1. (1) Falcons (7-0) ‘€” They’ve proven they can come from behind, they’ve proven they can blow teams out, and they’ve proven they can win on the road. The Falcons are the league’s best team and the only remaining unbeaten.

2. (2) Texans (6-1) ‘€” The best team in the AFC will look to pick up right where it left off after the bye week. The Texans are ranked in the top five in both pass and run defense. This is a team in line to not only win its second playoff game in franchise history but also to go deep in the postseason.

3. (3) Giants (6-2) ‘€” It wasn’t a pretty victory, but it was a win against a divisional opponent nonetheless. The Giants have a comfortable 3½-game lead in the NFC East. 

4. (4) 49ers (6-2) ‘€” If the 49ers offense can play as methodically and efficiently as it did on Monday night, San Francisco can be the most complete team in the league. Defensively, we know what this team is capable of. The Niners allowed a total of seven rushing yards against the Cardinals. That’s domination.

5. (5) Packers (5-3) ‘€” There are reports that the Packers might be interested in trading for Steven Jackson before the Thursday deadline. That would be a solid move for a team that ranks 26th in the league in the running game. Starting running back Alex Green averaged just 2.5 yards per carry against the league’s worst run defense, the Jaguars.

6. (6) Bears (6-1) ‘€” The Bears D already has returned six interceptions for touchdowns and is one of the main reasons the team is in first place in the NFC North. If Jay Cutler can stay healthy, the Bears can go deep into the playoffs. That’s a big IF. The Bears QB has been under duress a lot over the last two weeks and has been sacked 11 times in that span.

7. (7) Patriots (5-3) ‘€” The Patriots historically get better when the month of November rolls around. It doesn’t hurt that six of their remaining eight games are against the Bills, Colts, Dolphins, Jets and Jaguars. There’s no reason to believe the Pats can’t lock up at least the No. 2  seed in the AFC.

8. (8) Ravens (5-2) ‘€” Ravens fans are hoping to see more Ray Rice in the team’s offensive game plan in the second half of the season. The star running back is the team’s best weapon offensively, but for some reason his workload has been limited at times. Baltimore will limp out of the bye week without defensive standouts Lardarius Webb and Ray Lewis.

9. (9) Broncos (4-3) ‘€” We already know how impressive Peyton Manning has been this season, but the Broncos D really stepped up in Sunday night’s win over the Saints. Denver held the Saints to just 14 points and Drew Brees passed for just 213 yards. The Saints offense looked out of rhythm for most of the night, and a lot of credit has to go to Denver’s defensive unit.

10. (10) Steelers (4-3) ‘€” Jonathan Dwyer has revived the Steelers running game and offense. In two starts, the Steelers running back has averaged 6.7 yards per carry. The strong running game also puts less pressure on Ben Roethlisberger and keeps opposing defenses guessing.

11. (11) Seahawks (4-4) ‘€” Since defeating the Patriots in dramatic fashion, the Seahawks are 0-2. All four of their losses have come on the road. Pete Carroll told local radio station ESPN 710 in Seattle that his team “could easily be 8-0.” The problem is that argument could be reversed pretty easily — especially if you look at the legendary “Fail Mary” game against the Packers earlier in the year.

12. (13) Cowboys (3-4) ‘€” Tony Romo already has thrown 13 interceptions this season, three more than his total all of last year. The Cowboys are a mediocre team that isn’t disciplined enough to be successful in the NFL.

13. (14) Vikings (5-3) ‘€” Christian Ponder‘s play of late has to be a concern for Vikings fans. After starting the season without throwing an interception, he’s now thrown at least one in four straight games.

14. (20) Lions (3-4) ‘€” The young Matthew Stafford certainly has a knack for leading his team to victory in the fourth quarter. The Lions QB has nine career game-winning drives after downing the Seahawks on Sunday. All three Lions wins this season have come by way of the game-winning drive.

15. (21) Dolphins (4-3) ‘€” The Dolphins have rattled off three straight wins, and there finally is postseason hope for fans in Miami. Two of their three losses have come in overtime. It was a good sign that backup quarterback Matt Moore was able to enter the game without any hiccups. Rookie Ryan Tannehill‘s status for Sunday’s game is up in the air, but the quarterback said he was “optimistic” he’d be ready to play.

16. (12) Eagles (3-4) ‘€” Michael Vick sure looked and sounded like a beaten man following his team’s loss to the Falcons. The Eagles’ season is quickly spiraling out of control, and you have to wonder how much longer Andy Reid will survive.

17. (15) Chargers (3-4) ‘€” No seat is hotter than Norv Turner‘s. The Chargers’ embarrassing 7-6 loss to the lowly Browns was just another step closer to the inevitable firing of Turner. This team has way too much talent for a 3-4 record.

18. (17) Cardinals (4-4) ‘€” They didn’t lose in September but didn’t win in October. The Cardinals have lost four straight and quickly are losing ground in the NFC. Until the Cards learn how to protect the quarterback, they will be a pretender.

19. (16) Saints (2-5) ‘€” Despite the return of interim head coach Joe Vitt, the Saints defense showed no improvement. The Saints are the first team to allow at least 400 yards in seven straight games. Ouch.

20. (18) Redskins (3-5) ‘€” The defense has a poor pass rush and an even worse secondary. The Redskins also missed a lot of tackles in Sunday’s loss to the Steelers. Halfway into the season it’s clear that the team was right to draft Robert Griffin, but Washington is a few pieces away from being a legit Super Bowl contender.

21. (24) Buccaneers (3-4) ‘€” Greg Schiano has done a terrific job changing the losing culture in Tampa Bay. This is a young team that has shown improvement throughout the year. The Bucs won just four games all of last year.

22. (22) Bengals (3-4) ‘€” Andy Dalton has thrown at least one interception in all seven of his games this year. That’s one important area he’ll have to improve in during the second half of the season if the Bengals want a chance at making the playoffs for the second straight year.

23. (27) Raiders (3-4) ‘€” They’ve won two straight, but those were against teams ranked 31 and 32. The Raiders’ schedule gets a little more difficult the next three weeks as they face the Bucs, Ravens and Saints.

24. (19) Jets (3-5) ‘€” Rex Ryan probably has one of the most predictable dilemmas of the season. That dilemma is whether or not to start Tim Tebow at quarterback over Mark Sanchez. As soon as the team traded for Tebow, it was obvious that a few bad games for Sanchez would result in an overwhelming push for “Tebow Time.” Jets fans are eager for anything but what they’ve gotten so far. Sanchez has proven what he can do and what his limitations are. This team isn’t going far with Sanchez behind center. Why not try something else?

25. (28) Colts (4-3) ‘€” Many believed the Colts would be improved, but it’s been remarkable how fast this team has progressed from last year. A record over .500 seven games into the season is quite a feat for a team that didn’t win a game until December last year.

26. (23) Titans (3-5) ‘€” The Titans defense struggles in many different areas. The pass rush is weak, the run defense is terrible, and on Sunday, the communication was terrible. The Titans lined up with only 10 men on the field twice during the Colts’ game-winning overtime drive.

27. (25) Bills (3-4) ‘€” The Bills spent the offseason improving their defense, but those signings have shown little positive results. The Bills run defense is the worst in the league and the team is allowing an average of 32.4 points per game.

28. (26) Rams (3-5) ‘€” The Rams’ lack of weapons on offense makes it difficult for them to compete against some of the elite teams in the league. Sam Bradford needs more talented receivers to target. Heading into the bye, Danny Amendola should be ready to get back on the field when the Rams play the 49ers in two weeks.

29. (30) Browns (2-6) ‘€” Coach Pat Shurmur gave his players the opportunity to take Monday off after a huge win on Sunday, but they decided to show up for work anyway. The Browns are a young team, and the most important thing right now is that they play hard and continue to show improvement week after week.

30. (29) Panthers (1-6) ‘€” Cam Newton has been subject to a lot of criticism. The Panthers have lost five straight games, and the second-year QB has taken a step back from his rookie season. Newton’s fourth-quarter interception was returned for a touchdown. He’s not protecting the football and that’s been an issue the team has struggled to overcome throughout the year.

31. (31) Jaguars (1-6) ‘€” If your team has the league’s worst passing offense, that usually translates into a very subpar record in the NFL. Mike Mularkey has yet to find a way to get first-round draft pick Justin Blackmon more involved in the offense. For all the hype, the fifth overall pick has been disappointing to say the least.

32. (32) Chiefs (1-6) ‘€” The Chiefs have been outscored by their opponents by an astounding 89 points this season. People in Kansas City no longer have to watch the games to see if the Chiefs will win, they just have to watch to see how much they’re going to lose by.

Which NFL teams are in your top 10? Leave your opinions/comments below or e-mail them to powerrankings@weei.com. You also can send comments via Twitter to @JoeytheFishWEEI.

Read More: aaron rodgers, Drew Brees, Mark Sanchez, NFL Power Rankings
WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 8: Falcons stay on top, Ravens tumble 10.23.12 at 9:22 am ET
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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.

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Read More: aaron rodgers, Eli Manning, Matt Ryan, NFL Power Rankings
WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 7: Patriots fall to No. 8 10.16.12 at 9:59 am ET
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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.

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Read More: Eli Manning, Matt Ryan, NFL Power Rankings, Philip Rivers
WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 6: Patriots return to top 5 10.09.12 at 10:19 am ET
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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.

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Read More: Alex Smith, Brian Cushing, Chuck Pagano, Matt Ryan
WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 5: Falcons retain crown 10.02.12 at 7:09 am ET
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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.

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

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 Mannings 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.

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Read More: Chuck Pagano, Matt Ryan, NFL Power Rankings, Tom Brady
WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 4: Replacement refs fiasco won’t alter rankings 09.25.12 at 9:03 am ET
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They may be able to alter the outcome of games, but we will not allow the NFL and the replacement officials to affect the WEEI Power Rankings. Having said that, the Packers are ranked as if they won and the Seahawks are ranked as if they lost.

For the third straight week, the top-ranked team fell from grace. Despite being given two additional timeouts, the 49ers were upset by the Vikings and fall to No. 3. Matt Ryan and the Falcons climb to the top spot. The Texans are slightly behind them at No. 2.

The Cardinals finally are starting to gain some respect and jump all the way to No. 7 after another dominating defensive performance.

If the recent reports are true, we’re in for at least another week of replacement officials. Hopefully we’re not forced to pretend that certain teams won again.

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

1. (3) Falcons (3-0) ‘€” There aren’t many weaknesses on this team. On offense, no quarterback has been better than Matt Ryan. The 27-year-old already has eight touchdown passes to go along with just one interception. The Falcons lead the league with 11 forced turnovers.

2. (2) Texans (3-0) ‘€” The Texans are just an overall well-balanced team. If they can ensure Matt Schaub never takes a hit like the one he took from Joe Mays on Sunday, Houston will continue to win. This is one of the best teams in the league in one of the worst divisions.

3. (1) 49ers (2-1) ‘€” The Niners turned in a very uncharacteristic performance on Sunday, but it’s way too early to say this team isn’t as good as we thought it was before the loss to the Vikings. Interceptions, fumbles, penalties and poor play on special teams all contributed to the loss. This team has been far too consistent over the past year to think it won’t bounce back. Alex Smith threw his first interception in 249 attempts.

4. (4) Packers (1-2*) ‘€” We have yet to see the Packers offense we grew accustomed to watching over the past couple of years. Maybe it has something to do with playing against two of the top defenses in the league (Niners and Seahawks). Still, Green Bay should be 2-1 right now. Bobby Valentine would call this “a damn shame.”

5. (6) Ravens (2-1) ‘€”The offense is now the Ravens’ biggest asset. Joe Flacco has proven he is capable of putting up big numbers in the air and leading his team late in games. Ray Rice has been key to Flacco’s progression. The stud running back demands constant attention and that makes the team’s play-action so effective.

6. (13) Giants (2-1) ‘€” Give credit to the Giants for not missing a beat after losing their best wide receiver and running back to injury. They turned in a dominant performance against the Panthers.

7. (16) Cardinals (3-0) ‘€” The Cardinals defense can’t be described as anything less than “dominant” after its first three games. Arizona’s D is allowing just 13.3 points per game. As good as this team has looked, it still has shortcomings. There are still question marks at the quarterback position. Remember, the Broncos jumped out to a 6-0 start in 2009 and went on to miss the playoffs.

8. (7) Patriots (1-2) ‘€”The Patriots’ inability to close games late in the fourth quarter on both sides of the ball is a reason for concern. The revamped defense got exposed by Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense. The Patriots cornerbacks are not talented enough to play man coverage on opposing receivers. We saw both Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington get fooled on Sunday night. The Ravens receivers simply ran by them.

9. (8) Broncos (1-2) ‘€” Unfortunately for the Broncos, the schedule hasn’t been kind to them. In the past two weeks, they’ve faced two of the best teams in the league. Slow starts haunted Peyton Manning and the Broncos in both games.

10. (12) Bears (2-1) ‘€” The Bears defense gets to the quarterback. The relentless D leads the league with 14 sacks in three games. That number will get even higher when the team is finished with the feeble offensive line of the Cowboys next Monday night.

11. (11) Cowboys (2-1) ‘€” The Cowboys improved to 2-1 but Tony Romo took an absolute beating in the process. The offensive line has been terrible at protecting its starting QB. If the team continues down this path, Romo won’t be healthy enough to start.

12. (9) Steelers (1-2) ‘€” The Steelers could benefit greatly from an established run game. With the type of weapons Ben Roethlisberger has available in the receiving game, Pittsburgh’s offense has the potential to be a lot more dangerous. Isaac Redman, Baron Batch and Jonathan Dwyer just haven’t been able to get the job done. Rashard Mendenhall is inching closer to a return after suffering a torn ACL last season.

13. (19) Seahawks (2-1*) ‘€” What an unbelievable performance from the Seahawks defense. The defensive line is absolutely relentless and the secondary is the best in football. A few more weapons on offense and Pete Carroll will have himself a Super Bowl-caliber team.

14. (5) Eagles (2-1) ‘€” Michael Vick is responsible for nine of the Eagles’ 12 turnovers so far this season. No team has turned the ball over more than the Eagles. It’s just a matter of time before all of these vicious, violent hits take a toll on Vick. He needs to have better pocket presence.

15. (10) Chargers (2-1) ‘€” We saw Philip Rivers get back to making poor decisions on Sunday. The Chargers QB was frequently under pressure by a relentless Falcons defense that resulted in his throwing two interceptions.

16. (22) Bengals (2-1) ‘€” Andy Dalton already has five game-winning drives in his short career. The Bengals are an exciting young team to watch.

17. (20) Bills (2-1) ‘€” It’s difficult to lose a starting running back who’s averaging close to 10 yards per carry. The emergence of C.J. Spiller provided the Bills with a great weapon on the ground. Now, they’ll have to do without their electrifying back going into their biggest game of the season.

18. (15) Panthers (1-2) ‘€” I think it’s great that Steve Smith lectured Cam Newton on Thursday night for acting unprofessional and immature. Smith is a veteran and a leader on that team and Newton should soak up any knowledge he can get from established players in the league.

19. (23) Redskins (1-2) ‘€” RG3 can breath a sigh of relief that Trent Williams‘ injury is just a bone bruise. The left tackle had to leave Sunday’s game because of the injury. His absence was felt tremendously and contributed to the Bengals sacking the rookie six times and knocking him down 13 times.

20. (27) Vikings (2-1) ‘€” After watching Christian Ponder pick apart one of the best defenses in the league,  the Vikings may finally have a franchise quarterback in the making. The young QB has looked great so far. Ponder is completing 70 percent of his passes and hasn’t thrown a pick yet.

21. (17) Jets (2-1) ‘€” The crippling loss of Darrelle Revis for the season will have an enormous impact on this team’s chances of making the playoffs. Aside from being one of the few respected leaders on the team, Revis’ role on the defense can’t be replaced. ESPN Stats & Information breaks down just how much the All-Pro corner will be missed.

22. (26) Titans (1-2) ‘€” The Titans played in one of the most head-scratching, entertaining games of the year. The young buck Jake Locker completed two huge touchdown passes and helped lead his team to its first W of the season. Despite the win and the large offensive numbers, running back Chris Johnson was once again a non-factor.

23. (14) Lions (1-2) ‘€” Jim Schwartz is a great coach but he definitely blew it for the Lions in Week 3. Under no circumstance can you allow your team to lose like that. Matthew Stafford left Sunday’s game with a high hamstring strain and it’s unclear whether he’ll play in Week 4. Hopefully for the Lions, Schwartz, backup quarterback Shaun Hill and center Dominic Raiola can get on the same page by then.

24. (25) Chiefs (1-2) ‘€” The Chiefs were waiting for their young running back Jamaal Charles to break out. After a huge comeback win, this might just be what Romeo Crennel‘s team needs to pull off a string of wins and strong play.

25. (21) Buccaneers (1-2) ‘€” Greg Shiano has his team playing tough, competitive football after a debacle of a season last year. It’s easy to see the rookie head coach has already had a positive impact on this young Buccaneers team.

26. (18) Saints (0-3) ‘€” It’s time to push the panic button in the Bayou. The Saints were outscored 11-0 in the fourth quarter and allowed one of the league’s worst teams to beat them at home. The suspension of Sean Payton has haunted this team all year. The offense hasn’t been able to establish any type of threat in the run game. The defense “can’t stop a nose bleed,” to quote Jets linebacker Bart Scott.

27. (29) Raiders (1-2) ‘€” Usually when a team gives up four touchdowns and close to 400 yards passing, it loses. However, the Raiders prevailed in overtime against the Steelers. Penalties have always killed Oakland but in Sunday’s win the team was only flagged three times.

28. (24) Rams (1-2) ‘€” The strength of the Rams offense is the run game. If Steven Jackson and the running backs can’t get anything going, Sam Bradford is in trouble. The offensive line allowed Bradford to be sacked six times against the Bears.

29. (28) Dolphins (1-2) ‘€” Losing Reggie Bush for the year would have been more devastating than losing to the Jets in overtime. The running back has been the key to the offense and the news that he could be ready to play as soon as next week should be encouraging for Joe Philbin.

30. (32) Jaguars (1-2) ‘€” Blaine Gabbert will gain confidence after leading his team on a game-winning touchdown drive. The young QB looks like he’s becoming more comfortable in the pocket.

31. (30) Colts (1-2) ‘€” The loss of Austin Collie just takes yet another weapon away from rookie Andrew Luck. The first-year QB has developed nicely over the first three games. It will be interesting to see how he does when he has a run game and a few more targets to throw to.

32. (31) Browns (0-3) ‘€” Time and time again the Browns find themselves in the cellar. After three weeks, the Browns are one of only two teams still searching for a win.

Which NFL teams are in your top 10? Leave your opinions/comments below or e-mail them to powerrankings@weei.com. You also can send comments via Twitter to @JoeytheFishWEEI.

Read More: Darrelle Revis, joe flacco, NFL Power Rankings, Rex Ryan
WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 3: Patriots plummet to No. 7 09.18.12 at 9:52 am ET
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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:

Click here to listen to Mut, Merloni, and Zarbano discuss the NFL Power Rankings.

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 »

Read More: Alex Smith, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, NFL Power Rankings
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