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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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Read More: aaron rodgers, NFL Power Rankings, Rex Ryan, Tim Tebow
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
WEEI Week 8 NFL Power Rankings: Patriots move up to second spot 10.25.11 at 6:12 am ET
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Once again, the Packers claim the top spot in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. The undefeated Packers have enjoyed their reign at No. 1 in the rankings since August and will go into the month of November a perfect 7-0. The Lions (8) were undefeated through five weeks but have since lost two straight and drop again. The biggest surprise of the week came on Monday night when the Ravens were upset by the one-win Jaguars. The loss drops the Ravens three spots and puts them in a two-way tie with Steelers in the AFC North. Meanwhile, the 49ers (4) climb two spots and join the Patriots (2), Saints (3), and Ravens (5) in the top five.

Some of the teams ranked high at the beginning of the season but have since fell are fighting to get back to where they were. The Steelers (6), Falcons (7), Jets (9),  and Bears (12) are inching their way back up the chart after dropping earlier in the season. The Chargers (14) plummet almost ten spots after an epic collapse at the hands of the Jets. The Chargers have yet to beat a team over .500.

All three of the winless teams in the NFL were in action on Sunday but only one actually had a shot of winning. The Dolphins (31) surrendered a late lead to the Broncos (25) as Tim Tebow led his team to a magical comeback victory while the hapless Dolphins saw their hopes of getting in the win column go up in smoke.

Games that will have the biggest impact on next week’s Power Rankings:

The Patriots travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers.

The Cowboys face off against the Eagles in a key divisional match-up.

Byes: Jets, Raiders, Falcons, Bucs, Bears, Packers

1. (1) Packers (7-0) ‘€” Aaron Rodgers will enter the bye week as the best quarterback in the NFL right now. The Super Bowl MVP leads in almost every statistical category a quarterback can be measured in. The array of weapons on the Packers offense is the main reason the defending champs are undefeated and show no sign of slowing down.

2. (3) Patriots (5-1) ‘€” There aren’t many better than Tom Brady and Bill Belichick coming off a bye week. The last time the Patriots lost following the bye was in 2002. That said, the Steelers passing game with Roethlisberger and Mike Wallace will be a tremendous challenge for the Patriots pass defense. The return of Jerod Mayo, a healthy Albert Haynesworth and the continued solid play from Brandon Spikes should help the Patriots improve on defense the rest of the way.

3. (4) Saints (5-2) ‘€” It doesn’t matter who the opponent is, any time an offense can put up 60+ points in a game, it’s impressive.  Brees completed 31 of 35 passes and threw five touchdowns. This offense is so dynamic, don’t be surprised to see a repeat performance  this Sunday when the Saints face another winless opponent, the Rams. The Colts are ranked dead last in the NFL in points allowed per game, right in front of them at No. 31 are the 0-5 Rams. The Saints owe a major “Thank you” to the NFL schedule makers.

4. (6) 49ers (5-1) ‘€” It was business as usual in the NFC West. The Rams, Seahawks, and Cardinals all lost as the 49ers enjoyed their bye week and saw their lead increase in the division. Barring any major setbacks and injuries, the 49ers are practically a lock to win the West. They’ve played great under Jim Harbaugh and the competition is extremely poor within the division.

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Read More: aaron rodgers, joe flacco, NFL Power Rankings, Tim Tebow
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



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