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WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 7 10.18.11 at 6:16 am ET
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Just one undefeated team remains after six weeks of football. As expected, the Packers (1) rolled all over the Rams and cruised to 6-0. The Ravens (2) and Patriots (3) also continued their winning ways and jump one spot each to round off the top 3. The Lions (7) suffered their first loss of the season to the upstart 49ers in a gritty and exciting game. The 49ers (6) are buying what Jim Harbaugh is selling and they’ve now rattled off four straight wins as they head into their bye week.

Desperate teams like the Jets, Eagles (19), and Falcons (13) all managed to squeeze out wins and stay alive in the playoff race. The Jets stay put at No. 11 but could jump higher next week if they can beat the 4-1 Chargers (4).

There’s been a lot of commotion at the quarterback position across the NFL. The Broncos (26) are set to go with Tebow, the Redskins (20) have yet to name a starter for Week 7, the Seahawks (24) are uncertain if Tarvaris Jackson will be available, and the Raiders (12) suffered a big blow losing Jason Campbell.

At the bottom, misery loves company. The three remaining winless teams, the Rams (30), Dolphins (31), and Colts (32) are getting comfortable in their spots. All three teams are reaching new levels of terribleness.

What to watch for in Week 7:

The Falcons travel to Detroit to face the Lions in a game that could have playoff implications down the road.

In the hunt to win the AFC South, with the Manning-less Colts a non-factor, the Texans and Titans will square off in a huge divisional game.

Byes: Bills, Bengals, Patriots, Giants, Eagles, 49ers

1. (1) Packers (6-0) ‘€” Packers players should be prepared to fend off whispers of a possible perfect season because they’ll get louder and louder each week. The defending Super Bowl champs are over-matching their opponents and 7-0 looks inevitable with the Vikings next. With the way Aaron Rodgers is playing, undefeated certainly seems like a very real possibility.

2. (3) Ravens (5-1) ‘€” Baltimore has outscored its opponents by 77 points. The Ravens defense has been good all year and once again showed how tough and physical they can be against any offensive weapon the opposing team might throw at them. Arian Foster was shut down by a run defense that has been superb this season. On the other hand, Ray Rice has been lethal in the run and pass game.

3. (4) Patriots (5-1) ‘€” The improvement from the Patriots defense over the past couple of weeks has to be encouraging for Bill Belichick heading into the bye week. The pass rush is progressing and they’re getting off the field on third-down. This defense came up huge against the Cowboys and finally picked up the offense. Tom Brady and crew turned the ball over four times but the Pats D held Dallas to just six points on those turnovers. It’s a perfect time for a bye week for the Pats. Jerod Mayo, Albert Haynesworth and others can heal up and the defense can work on its problems before the team enters a tough stretch of games.

4. (2) Saints (4-2) ‘€” Tough day all around for the Saints. Not only did they lose to a divisional opponent, head coach Sean Payton tore his MCL after colliding with tight end Jimmy Graham. The injury will probably prevent the fiery Payton from coaching on the sidelines for a good period of time. All in all, the Saints should be able to overcome the tough defeat- thanks to the schedule. Two of the three winless teams in the NFL (Colts and the Rams) are next.

5. (6) Chargers (4-1) ‘€” The first-place Chargers sat back this past weekend and watched their biggest competition in the division lose its starting quarterback. The AFC West is theirs to lose. The Chargers now have to prove they can beat the good teams in the NFL. They’ll start by playing the Jets in New York this Sunday.

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Read More: aaron rodgers, Jim Harbaugh, NFL Power Rankings, Rex Ryan
WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 6 10.11.11 at 6:51 am ET
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Before the season started, the Eagles, Falcons and Jets were locks for the playoffs. The Bills, Redskins and 49ers were locks to have no chance. … And then they started playing the games. Now, through Week 5, the Eagles, Falcons and Jets are all under .500, and the Bills, Redskins and 49ers are all sitting pretty in first place in their divisions. It’s been an unpredictable year so far in the NFL. The Bills (7) and Raiders (8) are in our top 10. The Falcons (17), Eagles (20) and Jets (11) are not.

The elite teams in the NFL have held true to form. The Packers (1), Saints (2), Ravens (3) and Patriots (4) all have performed up to par and have solidified the top five over the past few weeks. The Lions (5) are making a case week after week that they, too, are one of the best in the league.

What to watch for in Week 6:

‘€¢ The Eagles’ season is on the brink of collapsing. They’ll play the Redskins in what is arguably a must-win situation.

‘€¢ The Bills will look to take down another solid opponent when they travel to New York to take on the Giants.

Byes: Broncos, Titans, Chiefs, Cardinals, Chargers, Seahawks

1. (1) Packers (5-0) ‘€” The comeback win against the Falcons came at a price, as starting left tackle Chad Clifton went down with a serious hamstring injury. The loss will certainly test the depth at the tackle position, because starter Bryan Bulaga has been battling a knee injury for the past two weeks. Even with the injuries, nothing has slowed down Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense. The defending champs are rolling. They haven’t lost a game since Week 15 against the Patriots and are playing the beat-up, winless Rams on Sunday.

2. (2) Saints (4-1) ‘€” Like other elite teams in the NFL, the Saints have a prolific offense accompanied by a mediocre defense. On Sunday against the Panthers, Sean Payton‘s defense made some key mistakes that could have cost the team the game. The five penalties the defense had on Sunday included two roughing-the-passer penalties and a personal foul on a bonehead play from Roman Harper. The Saints also were scorched by DeAngelo Williams on the ground.

3. (3) Ravens (3-1) ‘€” Coming off the bye week, the Ravens need Joe Flacco to bounce back from a shaky start to the season. Flacco’s completion percentage is one of the worst in the league, at 49 percent. He’ll look to improve against a Texans defense that is missing its best pass rusher in Mario Williams.

4. (4) Patriots (4-1) ‘€” The versatility of the Patriots offense makes Tom Brady and crew one of the most dominant teams in the game. Whether they need to pass, run, go to the no-huddle, or sustain a long drive, the Pats can do it all and are only going to get better. The production from the run game has been key. Brady can rely on his backs to move the chains, and it has helped balance the offense. Defenses have to worry about both the run and pass. The win against the Jets has to bolster the defense’s confidence as well. Although they faced a poor offensive team, the Pats should be encouraged after making big stops on third down. They’ll face a major test this Sunday against the Cowboys pass offense.

5. (5) Lions (5-0) ‘€” The Lions didn’t disappoint their fans while appearing on “Monday Night Football” for the first time in a decade. The Lions not only are relevant, they’re undefeated. The defensive line is relentless at rushing the passer. Ndamukong Suh has gone from rookie to superstar in just a year. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson have connected each week for at least one TD. Johnson now has caught nine touchdowns in his first five games. No receiver has done that in the history of the NFL.

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Read More: aaron rodgers, Calvin Johnson, NFL Power Rankings, Tom Brady
WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 5 10.04.11 at 7:32 am ET
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Just two undefeated teams remain as the first quarter of the season is in the books. Offense has defined the 2011 season so far. We’re seeing record numbers reached each week. Four of the top five teams (No. 1 Packers, No. 2 Saints, No. 4 Patriots, No. 5 Lions) have dynamic offenses that are ranked in the top of the league in almost every offensive category. One team that hasn’t forgotten defense is the Ravens. They retain their No. 3 spot as they come off an impressive defensive performance against the Jets.

Before the season started, backup quarterback Vince Young said the Eagles were a “dream team.” Four weeks into the season, Young hasn’t played a snap and the 1-3 Eagles are dangerously close to falling out of the top 20. In the AFC, the two teams that played for the right to represent the conference in the Super Bowl last year have fallen hard. After an embarrassing loss, the Jets drop to No. 9 and the struggling Steelers plummet to 14.

Week 5 is next and it has the potential to cause a major shakeup in the rankings. The Bears take on the Lions, the Jets and Patriots will square off, and the underachieving Eagles face the Bills.

Bye week teams: Browns, Ravens, Dolphins, Cowboys, Redskins, Rams

1. (1) Packers (4-0) ‘€” The MVP of the Super Bowl is making a strong case to be MVP of 2011. Aaron Rodgers has thrown 12 touchdowns and just two picks over the past four games. The Packers offense has looked unstoppable. Rodgers utilizes all of his weapons in the passing game, James Starks and the running game has added a great balance, and they protect the football. The defending champs are cruising.

2. (2) Saints (3-1) ‘€” The Saints finally have a running game. The three-headed monster of Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas has been consistently solid. They’ll take on the Panthers in Week 5 before they play a key divisional game against the Bucs in Week 6.

3. (3) Ravens (3-1) ‘€” Unbelievable performance from the Ravens defense on Sunday night. Ray Lewis captains a defense that sent a message throughout the league. The relentless, intimidating D of the Ravens is made up of plenty of playmakers who cause turnovers and create havoc on the field. The defensive unit scored more points than the entire Jets offense on Sunday night.

4. (4) Patriots (3-1) ‘€” Tom Brady and the Patriots offense have to continue putting up 30-plus points per week in order to win. That shouldn’t be a problem. Wes Welker is having the best season of his career. He’s averaging 10 catches per game. On top of that, Brady is getting production from the running game. The pass rush is a lingering problem. Once again, the Patriots failed to effectively put pressure on the quarterback and once again allowed over 300 yards through the air.

5. (7) Lions (4-0) ‘€” What a fun team to watch. The Lions have overcome two 20-plus-point deficits over the past two weeks and remain undefeated. Even more impressive, this team has won eight straight games dating back to last season. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson are turning into the Brady-Moss connection of 2007. In the first four games, “Megatron” has eight touchdown catches. Moss had seven at this point in ’07.

6. (11) Texans (3-1) ‘€” It could be worse — just ask the Chiefs. As soon as the Texans got Arian Foster back they lost Andre Johnson to a similar injury. It will be interesting to see who Matt Schaub leans on in the passing game with the All-Pro expected to miss some time. The good news is Foster looked healthy and Peyton Manning isn’t coming back any time soon. The Texans have taken a giant leap forward as far as their defense goes. Wade Phillips has done a great job improving one of the worst defenses in the league in 2010.

7. (9) Giants (3-1) ‘€” It’s amazing the Giants can boast a 3-1 record a quarter of the way into the season with the number of injuries they’ve endured. Eli Manning has played the best football of his career while many of his regular offensive tools are gone or nursing injuries. Osi Umenyiora looked like vintage Osi. It was hard to believe he hadn’t played a game all year.

8. (14) Chargers (3-1) ‘€” It was virtually impossible for the Chargers to get off to a slow start. The team’s three wins have come against opponents who have a combined record of 1-11. Philip Rivers and the Chargers will enjoy one more week of an easy schedule until the more challenging part begins.

9. (6) Jets (2-2) ‘€” The Jets are dangerously close to spiraling downhill. This team has endured back-to-back, double-digit losses for the first time under Rex Ryan. On top of that, the level of frustration is reaching all-time highs within the team. One of the team’s captain’s, Santonio Holmes, called out the poor play of Mark Sanchez and the offensive line. A loss to the Patriots this week could add fuel to the fire. Sanchez has had an awful start to the season. Week after week, he continues to make poor decisions with the football. It doesn’t help that the running game has been a non-factor and the offensive line has looked lost. Adding to all the negativity surrounding this team, veteran linebacker Bryan Thomas suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon injury.

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Read More: aaron rodgers, Michael Vick, NFL Power Rankings, Rex Ryan
WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 4 09.27.11 at 7:14 am ET
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The first month of the NFL season is complete and teams are shooting up and down the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. The Patriots held the No. 2 spot for two straight weeks but fall to No. 4 after giving up a 21-point lead to the Bills. Speaking of the upstart Bills, Ryan Fitzpatrick and his team take their league-leading 113 points all the way to No. 8. Right ahead of the undefeated Bills is the undefeated Lions (7).

Falling fast are the Falcons (12), Eagles (13), and Bears (16). All three teams lost in divisional games. To add injury to insult for the Eagles, Michael Vick had to leave the game once again. This time it was for a deep bone bruise to his right hand (originally it was thought to be broken).

Take a look at the 12 teams ranked 20-32. It’s safe to say there’s a lot of parity between the bad teams in the league. From the 49ers (20) on down to the Colts (32), the overall quality of those teams is similar. However, only one of those inferior teams will get a ticket to the playoffs. The NFC West should “feel shame” with its four squads: 49ers (20), Rams (21), Seahawks (29), and Cardinals (30).

1. (1) Packers (3-0) ‘€” In a rematch of the NFC championship game, the Packers went into Chicago and got a huge win. Aaron Rodgers has done a great job utilizing all of his weapons on offense. The talented running backs, wide receivers and tight ends create major mismatches across the field. There are few defenses in the NFL that will have an answer for this elite offensive group. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: aaron rodgers, Drew Brees, NFL Power Rankings, Rex Ryan
WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 3 09.20.11 at 10:25 am ET
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A thrilling Week 2 provided much insight on which teams will be pretenders and which will be contenders. The week also left us scratching our heads in some cases. The Bills and Redskins are both 2-0 while the Ravens were upset by the Titans.

The Packers and Patriots retain their spots as the top two teams in the NFL. Entering the top five for the first time this season are Rex Ryan‘s Jets (4).  In a rapid decline are three playoff teams from 2010. The Chiefs (30), Colts (31) and Seahawks (32) have dropped to the bottom of the league.

Looking ahead, there are a few key games in Week 3 that could have a great impact on the rankings: Packers at Bears, Giants at Eagles, Texans at Saints, and Redskins at Cowboys. We should be in for another exciting week in the NFL.

1. (1) Packers (2-0) ‘€” Aaron Rodgers and the Packers maintained their composure after falling behind to an inferior Panthers team and came back with a win. Rodgers has to love the production he got from James Starks. Starks averaged over nine yards per carry. Add a strong run game to an explosive pass game and the Packers will have their way with opposing defenses all season. On a down note, Packers Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins is out for the year. This is a team certainly capable of overcoming injuries but definitely a cause for concern as the pass defense has allowed back to back 400-plus-yard games.

2. (2) Patriots (2-0) ‘€” Tony Dungy said Sunday night that Tom Brady and the Patriots look like the 2007 team that went 18-1. It’s tough to disagree. The Patriots offense has been unstoppable over the first two games while the “bend but don’t break defense” has forced key turnovers.

3. (5) Saints (1-1) ‘€” The Saints defense responded well in Week 2 after getting torched by the Packers on opening night. It’s important to note that they were facing the Bears offensive line, but the Saints attacked the quarterback and sacked Jay Cutler six times while also forcing a fumble. In just two weeks, Darren Sproles has made Saints fans ask, “Reggie who?” Sproles has quickly become one of Drew Brees‘ favorite weapons. He was targeted 10 times in Sunday’s win.

4. (6) Jets (2-0) ‘€” The Jets came out ready to play on Sunday after a shaky Week 1 performance. Luke McCown and the Jaguars offense proved to be no match for the Jets dominant D. Rex Ryan‘s defensive unit had four interceptions and held the Jaguars to under 100 yards passing. Mark Sanchez, on the other hand, was inconsistent once again. He threw two interceptions, upping his turnover total to four this season. Furthermore, Nick Mangold will miss some time and that could also hinder Sanchez’ play. Mangold has started in every game since entering the league in 2006.

5. (4) Ravens (1-1) ‘€” If the Ravens want to reach the Super Bowl, they can’t afford to have many more games like they did last Sunday. The defense was totally unprepared for the Titans passing game as they looked helpless against Matt Hasselbeck. The pass rush was nonexistent and the thin secondary had no answer for Kenny Britt. With all that being said, I’d be shocked if we saw a similar type of performance from the Ravens in Week 3.

6. (7) Steelers (1-1) ‘€” The Steelers did exactly what many expected after suffering an embarrassing Week 1 loss. They routed an awful Seahawks team. Looking ahead, they’ll face another second-rate team next week when they travel to Indy.

7. (10) Falcons (1-1) ‘€” The Falcons played to their strengths Sunday night and they came away with a huge win. This team is at its best when it has a strong balance in the run and pass game. Matt Ryan performed great in the no-huddle offense while Michael Turner and the Falcons running game also excelled.

8. (3) Eagles (1-1) ‘€” The so-called “Dream Team” of the NFL has a lot of challenges ahead. It took just seven quarters of football for Michael Vick to suffer a serious enough injury that he had to leave the game. The Eagles have some major problems. Vick continues to be on the ugly side of some vicious hits, he’s been careless with the football, and the defense has struggled mightily, especially against the run.

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Read More: aaron rodgers, Jets, NFL Power Rankings, Packers
NFL Power Rankings Week 2: Packers move into top spot 09.13.11 at 8:25 am ET
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An exciting Week 1 is in the books.

We saw offensive juggernauts all over the NFL. The Packers, Saints, Patriots, Ravens, Texans and Bills (yes, Bills) all had outstanding performances from their offenses. We also saw a lot of upsets across the league. Many division winners in 2010 suffered opening week losses. The 20th-ranked Chiefs were crushed by the Bills (19), the Steelers (6) were thrashed by the Ravens (3), and the Manning-less Colts (24) were pounded by the Texans (11). It was a tough start for the NFC South particularly, as the Saints (5), Falcons (10), Bucs (15) and Panthers (30) all fell short.

There was some dramatic movement in this week’s edition of the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. Most notably, the Colts fell all the way down to No. 24. The Bills (19) made a giant leap and find themselves in the top 20. Finally, the city of Cleveland continues to suffer as the Browns are the newest occupants of the much dreaded No. 32 slot.

1. (1) Packers (1-0) ‘€” Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense will roll through defenses all year. It’s scary how much talent Rodgers has around him. That was an impressive opening performance from the defending champs and we’ll be seeing numbers like that from this team all year.

2. (3) Patriots (1-0) ‘€” I feel sorry for defensive coordinators and coaches who have to game-plan against Tom Brady and the Pats offense. How do you stop all the weapons in Brady’s arsenal? Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski are matchup nightmares. The Dolphins were a solid defense against the pass last year. They ranked eighth in the NFL. The Patriots made them look ridiculous. One obvious area of concern has to be the loss of Dan Koppen and the lack of depth on the offensive line. Koppen has played in 120 games since 2003 and hasn’t missed one since 2007.

3. (5) Eagles (1-0) ‘€” The Eagles showed off their impressive offense in the win against the Rams. LeSean McCoy averaged eight yards per carry while Michael Vick made big plays through the air and on the ground. The troubling part of the loss was Vick took some major hits from the Rams defense.

4. (8) Ravens (12-4) ‘€” It’s only Week 1, but the Ravens’ victory over Steelers is the biggest win for this franchise in a long time. Not only did they beat their division rival, they embarrassed them. Ed Reed, Ray Lewis and Haloti Ngata led the way contributing to seven forced turnovers. This wasn’t just a win, it was a moral-boosting victory that will give the Ravens plenty of confidence going forward.

5. (4) Saints (0-1) ‘€” The voluntary offseason workouts seemed to help Drew Brees and the Saints offense, as they looked to be in midseason form on Thursday night. The defense was a totally different story. The Saints had no answer for the Packers’ high-powered offense. It was an all-around poor effort as the defensive line struggled to pressure Rodgers and the secondary often appeared lost.

6. (7) Jets (1-0) ‘€” Not sure if we should call the Jets resilient for coming back, or lucky that Tony Romo pulled a Tony Romo. It’s probably a little bit of both. Great teams make big plays in key moments and the Jets got just that. Joe McKnight and the special teams unit came up huge with a punt block and touchdown late in the fourth quarter. On the other hand, Mark Sanchez was careless with the ball. Rex Ryan‘s squad will never win a Super Bowl until Sanchez can consistently protect the football.

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Read More: aaron rodgers, Michael Vick, NFL Power Rankings, Peyton Manning
NFL Power Rankings: Week 1 09.08.11 at 7:38 am ET
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The start of the 2011 season begins Thursday night in Green Bay. A game hasn’t been played yet, but already history has been made. Peyton Manning‘s streak of 227 consecutive starts will come to an end. A shortened but chaotic offseason/preseason resulted in many familiar faces ending up in different uniforms.

Week 1 already promises to be unforgettable. The Packers, slotted No. 1 in the WEEI Power Rankings, will take on the fourth-ranked Saints in what very well could be a preview of the NFC championship game. The Ryan brothers, Rex and Rob, will start the season vying for victory against each other when the Jets host the Cowboys. And the Ravens (8) and Steelers (2) will face off in another AFC North battle.

Let the games begin. And be sure to check out the WEEI NFL Power Rankings every Tuesday.

1. (1) Packers (10-6) ‘€” The Packers enter the season as the favorites to win yet another Super Bowl. Aaron Rodgers and the Pack managed to raise the Vince Lombardi trophy last year despite putting 15 players on IR. This year, they get many of those players back. Jermichael Finley and the Packers offense will be a nightmare for teams to defend against.

2. (2) Steelers (12-4) ‘€” The Steelers have depth on both sides of the ball. They brought back the majority of starters that carried them to the Super Bowl last year. Everyone knows how good they are defensively. This year look for Ben Roethlisberger and the offense to play just as well.

3. (3) Patriots (14-2) ‘€” The Patriots defense must play better this season or it will be another disappointing year in New England. Tom Brady can’t be expected to do it all. The Pats D needs to improve in many key areas including rushing the passer, getting off the field on third-down and limiting the amount of yards given up through the air. Adding Albert Haynesworth and Shaun Ellis could solve those problems and propel the Pats from a playoff team to a Super Bowl team.

4. (5) Saints (11-5) ‘€” The Saints enter the season in a great position to get back to the Super Bowl. The 09′ champs addressed their needs in the offseason by adding an array of talent on both offense and defense. Heisman winner Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles add depth and talent to a run game that hindered Drew Brees‘ performance last season. On defense, they added Shaun Rogers and Aubrayo Franklin to solidify the line.

5. (4) Eagles (10-6) ‘€” It’s all about keeping Michael Vick healthy. The Eagles have plenty of weapons offensively that should be used to keep Vick from taking a similar pounding in 2011 as he did last year. Andy Reid should give LeSean McCoy more touches and let him build off the tremendous season he had in 2010. Vick wore down last year; the Eagles need to keep him fresh if they want to accomplish what they think they’re capable of.

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Read More: NFL Power Rankings, Peyton Manning, Rex Ryan, Tom Brady
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