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NFL Power Rankings, Week 15: Patriots prepare for Tebow week 12.13.11 at 12:42 am ET
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Eight of the top 10 teams in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings were victorious in Week 14. The Cowboys were the only team to drop out of the top ten. They move to No. 12, while the Giants leap to No. 10.

Tim Tebow pulled off another miraculous fourth quarter comeback and has the Broncos (13) sniffing the top 10. In one of the most anticipated games of the year, Tebow will face off against the Patriots (5) in Week 15. Football fans everywhere are fascinated to see if the “Tebow Magic” can carry over for a seventh straight week.

Two coaches lost their jobs on Monday. The Chiefs (25) parted ways with Todd Haley and the Dolphins (22) fired Tony Sparano. Sparano and Haley join Jack Del Rio as coaches to be shown the door this season, and they probably won’t be the only ones. Raheem Morris with the Bucs (23), Andy Reid with the Eagles (21),  Norv Turner with the Chargers (15), and Jim Caldwell with the Colts (32) are just a few other coaches who would appear to be on the “hot seat”.

1. (1) Packers (13-0) ‘€” The Chiefs, Bears, and Lions stand in the way of the Packers completing a perfect regular season. Unless Aaron Rodgers goes down, Green Bay should become the second team in NFL history to finish a season 16-0. The success can be credited to a dynamic offense and a defense that causes turnovers. Their 32 takeaways leads the league.

2. (2) Ravens (10-3) ‘€” Sunday’s upcoming game against the Chargers will be a good test for the Ravens defense. Philip Rivers will be the best quarterback the team will have faced since Ben Roethlisberger in Week 9. If the Ravens win, they’ll clinch a playoff spot for the fourth consecutive year. If they win their remaining three games, they’ll lock up the No. 1 seed in the AFC for the first time in franchise history.

3. (3) Saints (10-3) ‘€” Very rarely do you see the Saints kick four field goals in a game. Usually we see Drew Brees slinging the football in the endzone. The Saints have looked like a very different team on the road at times this season and inevitably they’ll be forced to leave the comfy confines of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and play outdoors on the road. Sean Peyton will have to find a way to get his team to play at the same level on the road as they do at home.

4. (5) Steelers (10-3) ‘€” Ben Roethlisberger‘s health has been a concern all year because he’s constantly taking hits from opposing defenses. He is the second-most sacked quarterback in the league. The Steelers luckily escaped catastrophe when Roethlisberger went down with just a high-ankle sprain. Big Ben is beat up and needs better protection from his offensive line if the Steelers want to make a return to the Super Bowl. Read the rest of this entry »

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WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 14 12.06.11 at 7:23 am ET
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We learned a lot from Week 13. The Packers (1) and 49ers (4) clinched their respective divisions; the Bears (16) season is on life-support; the Bengals (18) can not contend with the elite teams in the league, Tim Tebow and the Broncos (13) are in first place; and Madonna will be performing at halftime during the Super Bowl.

The top six teams in WEEI’s NFL Power Rankings were victorious in Week 13. Teams ranked No.7-11 were a different story. The Falcons (8), Cowboys (10), Lions (12), Raiders (14), and Bears (16) all drop in the rankings. Meanwhile, the Jets (9) and Broncos (13) both climb.

The final four weeks of the NFL season are set to begin. The NFC East race is one of the most intriguing. The Giants (11) and Cowboys (10) will face off twice for the right to represent the division in the postseason. The series matchup starts this week in Dallas. Meanwhile, the race in the AFC for one wildcard spot seems destined to go down to the wire. Teams like the Jets, Raiders, Broncos, Titans, and Bengals are all in the hunt.

1. (1) Packers (12-0) ‘€” The Packers were tied in the fourth quarter for the first time this season. That’s a testament to how dominant the defending Super Bowl champs have been. They’ve now won 18 straight games and will surely wrap up home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The road to Indianapolis will go through Green Bay. NFC teams should be scared.

2. (2) Ravens (9-3) ‘€” The Ravens should finish the season 13-3 with games against the Colts, Chargers, Browns and Bengals remaining. It’s very important they take care of business and win out to soldify at least one home game in the playoffs. Ray Rice proved on Sunday that he is the motor that moves the Ravens offense. The elite running back rushed for over 200 yards.

3. (3) Saints (9-3) ‘€” The Saints couldn’t have picked a better time to be playing their best football of the season. It seems impossible to game plan against Drew Brees and the Saints offense. The pass defense has been the biggest cause for concern this season. However, they did a great job shutting down elite receiver Calvin Johnson on Sunday night.

4. (4) 49ers (10-2) ‘€” For the first time since 2002, the 49ers can call themselves division champs. The Niners defense hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher or a rushing touchdown all season. Running backs such as Steven Jackson, Ray Rice, and LeSean McCoy have all run into the 49ers D with little success. On the other side of the ball, Frank Gore is leading a productive rushing attack. Alex Smith is benefitting from the solid run game more than anyone. The young QB is managing games, not trying to do too much on the field, and has thrown just five interceptions.

5. (5) Steelers (9-3) ‘€” The Steelers are proud owners of the No. 1 defense in the league. The defending AFC champs look primed to make another strong playoff run. Ben Roethlisberger has shown no ill-effects from his thumb injury and James Harrison is starting to amp up the dominant Steelers pass rush.

6. (6) Patriots (9-3) ‘€” Playing 60 minutes of football seems to be challenge for the Patriots. Their fourth-quarter performance was alarming to say the least. The Colts rallied for 21 points in the last 15 minutes of the game. The cupcake schedule continues this week against the Redskins. They won’t play a top caliber quarterback until the playoffs. We won’t find out how good this team actually is until January.

7. (12) Texans (9-3) ‘€” The injuries keep piling up, but the wins keep coming in. The Texans are a resilient, gritty team that refuses to give up, no matter what player goes down with an injury. Gary Kubiak, Wade Phillips and the entire Texans coaching staff deserve much praise for what this team has done. The rags to riches story on defense has been one of the best storylines in the NFL this year.

8. (7) Falcons (7-5) ‘€” Dropped passes and a struggling run game is a bad combination. The Falcons had both in Sunday’s loss to the Texans. Star wide-receiver Roddy White leads the league with 11 dropped balls. Michael Turner was unable to get anything going against the Texans. The result is usually not good when the Falcons fail to run the ball effectively.

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WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 13 11.29.11 at 9:58 am ET
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Which team do you think has the best shot to beat the top-ranked Packers? The Giants (14), Raiders (10), Chiefs (23), Bears (11), and Lions (9) are the five remaining teams standing in the way of the Packers‘ quest for an undefeated season. Green Bay’s cushion for the top spot in the NFC got a little bigger as the 49ers (4) lost for just the second time this season.

The Patriots (6) and Cowboys (8) continued to gradually inch their way up the chart as both teams are enjoying winning streaks. Meanwhile,  the Bears (11) slide out of the top 10 after a loss to the Raiders (10) and the Texans (12) stay put despite winning their fifth consecutive game.

The playoff picture is starting to unfold. Teams like the Bengals (15), Jets (13), Titans (16) and Broncos (18) are all fighting for the final wild card berth in the AFC. Meanwhile, the Giants (14), Falcons (7), Lions (9) and Bears (11) will battle for the two wild card spots in the NFC.

1. (1) Packers (11-0) ‘€” The Packers aren’t even giving teams a chance. The Vikings are the only opponent that hasn’t been beaten by a touchdown or more. They lost by six in Week 7. Aaron Rodgers and the defending champions look like an unstoppable train. Last year, they squeezed into the playoffs and won every playoff game on the road. Now, they’re just a few weeks away from clinching the No. 1 seed in the NFC and home field throughout.

2. (3) Ravens (8-3) ‘€” The dominating defensive performance from the Ravens against the 49ers proved they are one of the elite teams in the league. Without defensive leader Ray Lewis, the Ravens D had nine sacks, held Frank Gore to just 39 yards, and went 10-for-12 on third-down stops. The Ravens are in an excellent position to lock up a first-round bye in the playoffs with four of their remaining five games coming against teams with a below .500 record.

3. (5) Saints (8-3) ‘€” Drew Brees and the Saints offense looked like a well-oiled machine during Monday Night Football. Brees has now thrown for 300-plus yards eight times this year. One of the biggest factors has been the production from the run game. Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram have provided a great balance to the offense.

4. (2) 49ers (9-2) ‘€” After being sacked nine times, Alex Smith shot up to No.3 on the quarterback sacks list. Nine sacks in one game is inexcusable; it doesn’t matter who the opponent is. The offensive line wasn’t the only one to blame. Smith held the ball too long at times and his receivers struggled to get open. Fortunately for the Niners, four of their remaining five games are against NFC West opponents.

5. (4) Steelers (8-3) ‘€” Injuries are starting to become a growing concern for the Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu and Maurkice Pouncey are all battling injuries. It’s extremely important Roethlisberger’s offensive line steps up the protection so he doesn’t suffer a setback to his injured thumb. The offensive line has been shaky all year and Big Ben has endured an endless amount of hits.

6. (7) Patriots (8-3) ‘€” The Pats defense needs to make stops on third down, cause turnovers and continue to stop the run in order to surmount the awful pass D. The Patriots have done that over the past three games and have shown signs of improvement. The only thing they can do now is continue to progress and get healthy as they play out their schedule against a group of inferior teams. There’s no reason why Tom Brady and the Pats shouldn’t be 13-3 when the season ends.

7. (6) Falcons (7-4) ‘€” The Falcons have won five of their last six games and are starting to get into a groove. Matt Ryan has played extremely well over the past few weeks. He’s protecting the football and has a high completion percentage. Ryan completed 79.4 percent of his passes and had a 128 QB rating in Sunday’s win over the Vikings.

8. (11) Cowboys (7-4) ‘€” The first-place Cowboys will face another below .500 opponent in Week 13 before their showdown in Dallas against the Giants. The G-Men, meanwhile, will face the undefeated Packers. The Cowboys could very possibly have a commanding two-game lead in the NFC East by the time Week 14 rolls around. The even-better news that came out of Dallas was that cornerback Mike Jenkins returned to practice and will likely play Sunday against the Cardinals after missing four straight games.

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WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 12 11.22.11 at 9:20 am ET
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No team can overtake the Packers. The undefeated defending champions cruised to 10-0 and once again sit atop the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. Perhaps their biggest test of the season will come on Thanksgiving against the Lions (9) on a short week of rest. The 49ers (2) are not far behind. The only thing preventing the Niners from an undefeated season is a Week 2 overtime loss to the Cowboys (11).

For the second straight week, another playoff contender lost its starting quarterback. Jay Cutler will miss the rest of the regular season, thus putting the Bears’ playoff hopes in jeopardy. Mark Sanchez is putting the Jets’ playoff hopes in jeopardy as well, but for a whole different reason. The lackluster play of Sanchez has resulted in back-to-back losses and drops the Jets three spots to 14.

Week 12 promises to have a major impact on the rankings. Six of the top 10 teams will face each other. The most intriguing matchup will involve the No. 2 and 3 teams, as the 49ers visit the Ravens. The Harbaugh brothers will face off in one of the most anticipated games of the year.

1. (1) Packers (10-0) ‘€” Defending the Packers seems like an impossible task. The array of weapons on offense is the reason why the defending champs are undefeated. Dating back to last year, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers have won 16 straight games. They’ll have to win 22 straight to finish the regular season undefeated and 25 to win the Super Bowl. That would be an amazing feat, and it looks more possible each week.

2. (2) 49ers (9-1) ‘€” The turnover-to-takeaway ratio is always a fine statistic to gauge how good a team actually is. The 49ers lead the league with a plus-17. The Packers are in second place with a plus-12. The Niners’ eight straight wins are a result of protecting the football, causing turnovers, great coaching and a physical defense.

3. (3) Ravens (7-3) ‘€” Ray Rice received 20 carries and helped lead the Ravens to a key divisional win. Baltimore wins more times than not when the play-calling on offense involves a strong mix of run and pass. For some reason, the Ravens at times get away from that philosophy. John Harbaugh‘s team is in first place but is playing the 9-1 Niners Thursday. The run-stifling defense of the Niners vs. Ray Rice promises to be a fun matchup to watch.

4. (4) Steelers (7-3) ‘€” The 31 times Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked this season has taken a toll on the 6-foot-5 quarterback. Roethlisberger is nursing a fractured thumb, and the Steelers must find a way to limit the amount of hits he takes if they want to go deep into the playoffs. Four of the Steelers’ six remaining games are against teams with a sub-.500 record.

5. (5) Saints (7-3) ‘€” Drew Brees and the Saints will get back to work in Week 12 against the Giants. Heading into the game, many are wondering if the Saints are capable of beating the Packers. Their defense must make a statement against Eli Manning and the New York passing attack. Defensively, the Saints have failed to generate much pressure on the quarterback.

6. (7) Falcons (6-4) ‘€” Finally, Roddy White dominated a game like he did so many times last year. With Julio Jones sidelined with an injury, White stepped up in a big way during Sunday’s win over the Titans. Matt Ryan and the offense will need White to perform each week as they battle for a playoff spot.

7. (9) Patriots (7-3) ‘€” It’s still difficult to determine whether the Patriots are a true Super Bowl-contending team. The next six games will shed little light on that answer. The combined record of the six remaining teams on the schedule is 20-40. Tom Brady and the Pats likely will wrap up the division and secure a high AFC seed. However, the lack of depth in the secondary makes the Pats an extremely beatable team.

8. (6) Bears (7-3) ‘€” Jay Cutler‘s injury hurts the Bears in so many ways. This is a team that has lost just one game since October. The Bears have improved dramatically. The offensive line was preventing sacks and opening holes for Matt Forte, while Cutler was finally protecting the football. Now the playoff hopes of Bears fans are in the hands of Caleb Hanie. It’s tough to like their chances of getting one of the two wild card spots in the NFC with the Lions, Falcons, Giants and Cowboys all fighting as well.

9. (10) Lions (7-3) ‘€” The resilient Lions have shown they are a team that can come back from any deficit. Once again, Matthew Stafford rallied his team to a win after trailing by double digits. The Lions’ play has been shaky of late, but they can breathe a little easier now that Bears QB Jay Cutler is out for the regular season. However, Detroit’s remaining schedule includes two games against the Packers and one against the Saints.

10. (8) Giants (6-4) ‘€” Sunday night’s monumental loss to the Eagles could really hurt the Giants. The G-Men are tied for first place in the NFC East with games against the Saints and Packers next. The run game has been the Giants’ biggest weakness all year. Ahmad Bradshaw is out with an injury and Brandon Jacobs has been inconsistent. He averaged less than two yards per carry and rushed for just 21 against the Eagles.

11. (12) Cowboys (6-4) ‘€” The Cowboys are undefeated in the month of November. Tony Romo and the offense have found a rhythm. The balanced attack of run and pass is making the offense difficult to defend against. Defensively, the Cowboys have shown signs of improvement. The run defense allowed just 2.5 yards per carry to the Redskins after being scorched by Fred Jackson last week for 8.8 yards per carry.

12. (13) Texans (7-3) ‘€” The Matt Leinart era will begin in Houston this Sunday when the Texans take on the Jaguars. Leinart will make his first start since 2009. He’ll be hoping Andre Johnson will be alongside. Johnson has been out since Week 4 and is expected to return.

13. (15) Raiders (6-4) ‘€” Carson Palmer‘s last two games are making doubters think twice before criticizing the team for giving up a first- and second-round draft pick. Palmer is getting into a rhythm with his receivers and has a high completion percentage. One thing that must be mentioned when talking about the Raiders is the amount of penalties they are flagged for. Hue Jackson has failed all season at getting his team to play more disciplined football. The Raiders had 12 penalties called against them against the Vikings. They’ll need to fix that issue if they want to remain in first place and make a run in the playoffs.

14. (11) Jets (5-5) ‘€” Mark Sanchez continues to drag the Jets down week after week. The third-year quarterback has made a habit at making the same mistakes time after time. His poor decisions with the football have resulted in some backbreaking plays over the last few weeks. There are talented players all around him, but Sanchez will prevent Rex Ryan and the Jets from accomplishing their goal if he doesn’t protect the football.

15. (14) Bengals (6-4) ‘€” Four of Andy Dalton‘s five interceptions over the last two games have come in the second half. The rookie has exceeded expectations this year, but at the same time he has been responsible for some untimely turnovers. The Bengals certainly are a team that has improved dramatically, but they don’t seem to be talented enough to beat the Ravens and Steelers this year.

16. (19) Eagles (4-6) ‘€” The overhyped Eagles finally won a big game. However, it might be a little too late. They’ll have to win their remaining six games against the Patriots, Seahawks, Dolphins, Jets, Cowboys and Redskins to avoid becoming the most disappointing sports team since the 2011 Red Sox.

17. (20) Buccaneers (4-6) ‘€” The Bucs proved they can compete with the best in the league when LaGarrette Blount is healthy and leading a strong run game. Blount provides balance to the offense, and that is exactly what the Bucs need to be successful. The carelessness Josh Freeman has shown with the football this year has to be a major concern for coach Raheem Morris. Following his three-interception performance last week, the third-year QB threw two more against the Packers, giving him a total of 15 for the season. Last year he threw just six.

18. (16) Titans (5-5) ‘€” Since the Titans’ shocking Week 2 win over the Ravens, they’ve yet to beat a team over .500. Chris Johnson has made Titans owner Bud Adams second-guess his decision to give him a six-year, $56 million deal all year. Johnson averaged just 1.1 yards per carry in Sunday’s loss.

19. (18) Chargers (4-6) ‘€” Five straight losses have sent the Chargers spiraling down to last place in one of the worst divisions in football. Philip Rivers and the Chargers haven’t won a game since Oct. 9. Norv Turner‘s days in San Diego are numbered if his underachieving team fails to make the playoffs again.

20. (17) Bills (5-5) ‘€” The Bills got off to a fast start because they won the turnover battle. That hasn’t been the case lately. Since Week 6, the Bills are a minus-9 in the takeaway/giveaway category. Defenses are starting to figure out the Bills offense. Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown nine interceptions in the last three games.

21. (21) Broncos (5-5) ‘€” With Tim Tebow as the starter, the Broncos have a 4-1 record and are just one game out of first place in the AFC West. Tebow’s fourth-quarter performances have been amazing to watch. It’s clear he gives his team the best chance to win. However, John Elway has also made it clear that he doesn’t believe Tebow is the quarterback of the future in Denver. In a passing league, Tebow’s inability to complete passes eventually will hurt him. It will be interesting to see what role Tebow plays in the offense down the road.

22. (26) Dolphins (3-7) ‘€” The Dolphins are just the third team in league history to win three straight games after losing seven straight. Matt Moore has been one of the biggest difference-makers. He’s thrown just one interception over the last three games.

23. (25) Seahawks (4-6) ‘€” Ray Rice and Steven Jackson have been the feature backs against the Seahawks the last two weeks and have a combined 69 rushing yards. They’ve stopped the run well all year and now rank eighth in the league in rush defense. Pete Carroll needs a quarterback far better than Tarvaris Jackson to get Seattle back to the playoffs.

24. (23) Chiefs (4-6) ‘€” It’s been a nightmare season for the Chiefs. The injury to Matt Cassel was the final straw. Tyler Palko didn’t make a strong case that he should be the starter going forward. It wouldn’t be surprising if we saw fifth-round draft pick Ricky Stanzi get some action behind center. With six games remaining, no team has a more difficult schedule ahead than the Chiefs. All six opponents have a winning percentage of .500 or better.

25. (24) Cardinals (3-7) ‘€” It’s time to put an end to the Beanie Wells experiment in Arizona. Dating back to college, durability has always been an issue for Wells. The Cardinals need a strong running game to be successful, and it’s obvious Wells isn’t the answer.

26. (30) Browns (4-6) ‘€” The Browns’ 14 points against the Jaguars was their highest total in five weeks. The multiple-touchdown performance from the offense was a rare but welcomed occurrence. Finding more offensive firepower is a must for the Browns when the season concludes.

27. (22) Jaguars (3-7) ‘€” It’s clear Blaine Gabbert needs more talent around him for the Jaguars offense to be successful. Gabbert led a solid final drive but his receivers let him down with dropped passes. With Maurice Jones-Drew at running back, it seems like the Jaguars just need an upgrade at the receiver position to get the offense out of the gutter. The Jags are averaging just 12.5 points a game.

28. (27) Vikings (2-8) ‘€” Offensive line help should be a major area the Vikings address in the offseason. They know they have a young quarterback with the potential of being one of the best in the league. Now they have to find the protection for him. Christian Ponder was sacked five times during Sunday’s loss to the Raiders. He was constantly chased out of the pocket but proved he can do some damage with his feet, racking up 71 yards on the ground.

29. (28) Redskins (3-7) ‘€” It’s been a difficult but promising year for the Redskins. Injuries have beleaguered Mike Shanahan‘s team, but before that rash of injuries the Redskins were playing quality football. The one missing ingredient is a quarterback. If the Redskins can get a top-caliber QB in the offseason, they’ll be in a great position to make the playoffs in 2012.

30. (29) Rams (2-8) ‘€” Sam Bradford, last season’s Offensive Rookie of the Year, has been sacked 31 times in just eight games this season. There aren’t many more damaging ways to stunt your franchise quarterback’s growth. Improving the offensive line will be No. 1 on the priorities list for the Rams.

31. (31) Panthers (2-8) ‘€” Cam Newton put it best: “We put on a clinic on how to lose a game.” The young Panthers have done that all year, losing six close games. Newton has proven he could be the best quarterback in the league someday, but he still has a lot to work on. Ball security hasn’t been his strong point. He’s thrown 14 interceptions this year; four of them came against the Lions during Sunday’s loss.

32. (32) Colts (0-10) ‘€” The No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft is just a couple of weeks away from being wrapped up by the Colts. Indy’s remaining schedule includes games against the Patriots, Ravens and Texans.

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

Read More: aaron rodgers, NFL Power Rankings, Tim Tebow, Tom Brady
WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 11 11.15.11 at 7:17 am ET
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Week 10 concluded with news of some major injuries across the league. Matt Schaub and Matt Cassel both are out for the year. The Texans (13) finally looked like a team that could win a playoff game in Houston but now it seems unlikely with Matt Leinart next in line. The Chiefs (23) drop four spots after finding out Matt Cassel’s season is over and after losing to the Broncos. Michael Vick is another quarterback that suffered an injury on Sunday. The Eagles QB will have to deal with broken ribs as he tries to miraculously save the season for Philly.

There wasn’t much movement in the top five. Despite being upset by the Seahawks (25), the Ravens remain at No. 3. The two wins over the Steelers (4) and the fact the Saints (5) have some questionable losses this year as well were the major determining factors. The Packers (1) and 49ers (2) remain atop of the rest of the league.

The Bears (6) and Patriots (9) are among the teams on the rise after both were victorious in their respective divisional games. After starting the season on a roll, both the Lions (10) and Bills (17) have fallen in the ranks over the past few weeks.

Byes: Colts, Saints, Steelers, Texans

1. (1) Packers (9-0) ‘€” As each week passes, it increasingly looks like the Packers are on a whole different level than the rest of the teams in the NFL. Green Bay hasn’t lost a game since Week 15 against the Patriots. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense have put up 30 or more points six times and 40 or more points four times. Whether its Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Jermichael Finley, Donald Driver, James Starks or another one of the many weapons in Rodgers arsenal, it seems like every offensive player contributes.

2. (2) 49ers (8-1) ‘€” That’s seven straight wins now for the first-place 49ers. The magic number for making the playoffs is now three for Jim Harbaugh’s team. There are many reasons why they’ve been successful this year. The Niners are well coached, make few mistakes, and have a physical defense that hasn’t allowed a rushing touchdown all season.

3. (3) Ravens (6-3) ‘€” It seems like the Ravens play to the level of their opponent. Two of their three losses have come against teams who don’€™t even have the slightest chance of making the playoffs. The offensive play-calling in the loss to the Seahawks was very questionable. When a team has a running back the caliber of Ray Rice, one would expect that he would have a hefty workload. However, he only had five carries while Joe Flacco threw the ball 52 times.

4. (4) Steelers (7-3) ‘€” The Steelers are heading into their bye week coming off their first division win of the year. In the win against the Bengals, the “Steel Curtain” D forced two interceptions and didn’t allow a point in the fourth quarter. During the bye week, the Steelers should be focused on improving the offensive line and finding ways to get Rashard Mendenhall and the run game back on track.

5. (6) Saints (7-3) ‘€” The NFC South is the Saints to lose after beating the Falcons on Sunday. Everyone knows how dominant Drew Brees and the offense is, but the Saints defense was the difference maker in the win against Atlanta. The Saints D has struggled mightily but came away with the biggest play of the season so far for the team. A big overtime stop on 4th down is the type of play a defense can build off.

6. (10) Bears (6-3) ‘€” Behind a physical defense, a strong offensive line, a dynamic running back, and a quarterback who has limited his mistakes, the Bears have won four straight games. The offensive line and Jay Cutler have improved tremendously over that time. Cutler has thrown just six picks all year. Aaron Rodgers and Alex Smith are the only, every-game starting quarterbacks who have thrown fewer interceptions.

7. (5) Falcons (5-4) ‘€” A veteran, talented team like the Falcons should be able to bounce back from Sunday’s devastating loss. They do need to see some improvement in specific areas. The pass rush has been inconsistent. The Falcons defense has sacked the quarterback just 15 times this year and is ranked at the bottom of league in that category. Roddy White needs to get back to becoming the dominating receiver he was last season. White is dropping passes and his yards, catches, and touchdown totals are all dramatically down from 2010.

8. (8) Giants (6-3) ‘€” Living on the edge finally caught up to the Giants. Games have been decided by one score or less in five of their last six. The injury to linebacker Michael Boley seemed to be the major factor in Sunday’s loss. Boley is one of the leaders on that defense and wears the green dot on his helmet. It’s hard to believe Vernon Davis would have been wide open to score the go-ahead touchdown if Boley was in the game. The Giants have a great opportunity next week to gain more ground in the division with the Eagles scheduled to come to town.

9. (11) Patriots (6-3) ‘€” The relentless, high-energy way the Patriots defense played on Sunday night is exactly what they’ll need to see on a consistent basis. Tom Brady was able to get his offense back on track with the no-huddle. The Patriots have had success with the no-huddle and it was easy to tell that it caught the Jets off guard. Forcing turnovers, scoring off those turnovers, and running a precise offense is exactly what Patriots fans have been accustomed to seeing over the years.

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WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 10 11.09.11 at 7:08 am ET
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A wild week in the NFL resulted in a shakeup in this week’s edition of the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. The Packers have a stranglehold on the No. 1 spot, but many other teams went soaring up or skyrocketing down. The 49ers (2), Ravens (3), and Steelers (4) move around but all remain in the top five. Meanwhile, the Patriots (11) plummet to their lowest spot all year. Back-to-back losses and the league’s worst pass defense is the main reason for the big drop.

It was a good week for some of the NFC’s top teams. The Falcons (5), Saints (6), Giants (8), and Bears (10) all rise at least one spot and sit in an NFC-dominated top 10. The Ravens (3), Steelers (4), and Jets (9) are the only teams that represent the AFC in the top 10.

Week 9 resulted in the NFL having just one remaining winless team. The Dolphins (29) wrapped up their first win of the season against the Chiefs (19). The Colts remain in the gutter at No. 32 and are now the lone front-runners for Andrew Luck.

Week 10 promises to be an exciting one, with will several divisional showdowns scheduled.

AFC East: Pats at Jets, AFC West: Chargers at Raiders, AFC North: Steelers at Bengals

NFC South: Saints at Falcons, NFC North: Lions at Bears

1. (1) Packers (8-0) ‘€” Dating back to last season, the Packers have won 14 straight games (including postseason). With the Vikings and Bucs next, there’s a very good possibility the defending champs could be 10-0 heading into their Thanksgiving Day game against the Lions.

2. (3) 49ers (7-1) ‘€” Make that six straight wins for the biggest surprise team in the league. The 49ers are atop of the NFC West and have the division practically wrapped up. Frank Gore‘s second sprained ankle of the season is reason to worry in San Francisco. Gore’s play this year is a major reason why the 49ers are in first-place. Alex Smith is a much better QB when he can lean on Gore. 

3. (5) Ravens (6-2) ‘€” A season sweep of the Steelers is a true sign of a strong team. Joe Flacco has redeemed himself after his poor performance against the Jaguars. Flacco is starting to get into a rhythm and has thrown for 300 or more yards in three of his last four games.

4. (2) Steelers (6-3) ‘€” The pass rush looks to be back with James Harrison wreaking havoc in the backfield. However, the Steelers defense still allowed the Ravens to convert 14 third downs on Sunday night. One positive is that Pittsburgh played much better against Ray Rice this time around. Rice averaged just 2.4 yards per carry. In Week 1, Rice ran all over the Steelers D. It almost seems inevitable that the Ravens and Steelers will see each other again in January.

5. (6) Falcons (5-3) ‘€” The Falcons’ biggest game of the season will come this week against the Saints. The two teams will fight for first place in the NFC South. Atlanta has to be encouraged going into the game after winning three straight and having a healthy Julio Jones back in Matt Ryan‘s arsenal.

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Read More: aaron rodgers, Albert Haynesworth, NFL Power Rankings, Tim Tebow
WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 9 11.01.11 at 1:39 am ET
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The top five saw a major shakeup in this week’s edition of the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. Both the Patriots (4) and Saints (8)  fell on Sunday and, as a result, drop in the rankings. Rising up are the Steelers (2) and 49ers (3).  Above all, of course, are the undefeated Packers (1). The defending champs enjoyed the week off while watching their biggest challengers for the crown lose.

We’re midway through the season but the top 22 teams in the rankings all have a shot at playoff berths. Some have better odds than others, but there is a slew of teams that are all in the race with two, three and even four losses. Six of the eight divisions in the league have three or more teams in the playoff hunt. The NFC East race is one of the more intriguing. The Redskins (22) are falling fast with a number of injuries but the Giants (10), Eagles (14), and Cowboys (21) all seem capable of taking the division.

The biggest surprise of the week was the upset win by the Rams (28) over the Saints. With the win, the Rams leave the Dolphins (30) and Colts (31) as the only winless teams in the league.

Key Week 9 games:

-Jets @ Bills, 1 pm

-Ravens @ Steelers on Sunday Night Football

-Bears @ Eagles on Monday Night Football

Byes: Panthers, Lions, Jaguars, Vikings

1. (1) Packers (7-0) ‘€” Even though the Packers were idle in Week 8, it’s clear Green Bay is a step above every other team in the NFL. The defending champs have rolled through the first half of the season and show no signs of slowing down.

2. (6) Steelers (6-2) ‘€” Many would call the Steelers’ win against the Patriots a “Statement game.” Ben Roethlisberger proved the Steelers’ vertical passing game can produce just as well as the other elite offenses in the league. “Big Ben” enjoyed good pass protection and helped show off the fast group of receivers he has in his arsenal. Defensively, the Steelers subdued the prolific Patriots offense and held them to their lowest point total all year.

3. (4) 49ers (6-1) ‘€” Who would’ve thought the Niners would have the second best record in the NFL eight weeks into the season? Alex Smith has taken a tremendous leap forward under new coach Jim Harbaugh. Last year through seven games, Smith had nine interceptions. This year he has just two. Protecting the football and getting Frank Gore the rock seem to be the keys on offense. On top of that, the run defense hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher all season and the defense has forced 10 fumbles. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: aaron rodgers, Mark Sanchez, NFL Power Rankings, Philip Rivers
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