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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
WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Preseason Edition 08.11.11 at 1:05 am ET
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Finally, football is here. The preseason kicks off Thursday, and what better way to roll in the 2011 season then with the first edition of WEEI’s NFL Power Rankings?

The lockout ended, the offseason began and chaos ensued. Many Pro Bowlers have changed teams. Guys like Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin, Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco, Steve Smith, Todd Heap and Olin Kreutz will spawn plenty of new jersey sales in their new locales. (Half of those guys signed with the Eagles alone.) A few more players are still looking for jobs, but most rosters have taken their primary shape. Some teams have improved, others … not so much.

Much can change over the next four weeks (injuries, cuts, trades, signings), but until then, check out where your team ranks. 

1. Packers (10-6) ‘€” The Packers won the Super Bowl last year, right? We haven’t heard a lot about the defending champs, and many believe they’re not even the best team in the NFC. However, the Packers have players like Ryan Grant and Jermichael Finley returning to their championship roster and are clearly the favorites to start the season.

2. Steelers (12-4) ‘€” The defending AFC champions are returning many of their starters on both sides of the ball. Once again, they will have one of the best defenses in the league, as well as an offense filled with weapons.

3. Patriots (14-2) ‘€” It’s tough not to love what the Patriots have done during the offseason. Bill Belichick‘s defense struggled at rushing the passer, was last in the league in getting off the field on third down and had plenty of trouble stopping teams in the red zone. Despite all of that, the Pats still posted a 14-2 record. The additions of Albert Haynesworth, Shaun Ellis and Andre Carter could turn the Pats D from one of the worst to one of the best in the league.

4. Eagles (10-6) ‘€” I’m still not sold on the “All-Hype Team,” as Rob Ryan likes to call the Eagles. The additions of defensive end Jason Babin and cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha are huge, but the Eagles’ chances at a Super Bowl rely on the health and performance of Michael Vick. Toward the end of the season in 2010, Vick was obviously wearing down from the number of hits he had taken because of his style of play. The Eagles need to utilize the playmaking abilities of LeSean McCoy more this year to ensure a healthy Vick come playoff time.

5. Saints (11-5) ‘€” No doubt the Saints are motivated to get back to the Super Bowl. Led by Drew Brees, many Saints players participated in a six-week offseason program. The team also upgraded its run game with Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram.

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Read More: Albert Haynesworth, Bill Belichick, Chad Ochocinco, NFL Power Rankings NFL Playoff Power Rankings: Patriots the team to beat 01.04.11 at 6:41 am ET
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After an unusual season in the NFL, 12 teams remain in the quest to hoist the Vince Lombardi trophy. The best of the group remains the Patriots (1). The Vegas oddsmakers agree, Tom Brady and the Pats have the best shot to win it all. The No. 2 seed in the AFC takes the No. 2 spot in the power rankings. The Steelers will roll into the playoffs with a first-round bye and the best defense in the league.

As usual, wild card weekend in the NFL will generate some “must-see” matchups. Football fans will get a chance to see a rematch of the 2009 AFC championship when Rex Ryan and the Jets (10) take on Peyton Manning and the Colts (8). The Jets coach will be out for blood as Manning is 2-0 over Ryan-led defenses in the postseason. We’ll also see two great quarterbacks go head-to-head when Aaron Rodgers and the Packers take on Michael Vick and the Eagles.

Let the postseason begin:

1. 14-2 The road to Dallas will go through Foxboro. You have to like the Patriots’ chances of reaching the Super Bowl if they can continue to win the turnover battle. Their 10 turnovers this year is the fewest in NFL history.

2. 12-4 There’s a saying “defense wins championships” and if that’s the case, the Steelers have a great shot at the organization’s seventh Super Bowl title. The Steelers D allowed the fewest amount of points in the NFL and dominated opposing team’s rushing attacks. The one area that could hurt the Steelers is their offensive line. Despite missing the first four games of the season, Ben Roethlisberger was sacked 32 times in the regular season.

3. 13-3 The Falcons enter the postseason in the best position to reach the Super Bowl from the NFC. They have home-field advantage, a quarterback who can win close games, and arguably the most balanced offense in the league. They’ll most likely play the Packers or Saints in the NFC divisional round.

4. 12-4 The Week 1 victory against the Jets paid off big time 17 weeks later. The Ravens will ride their four-game winning streak into Kansas City as opposed to Indianapolis. They are also the only team in the playoffs that can say they beat Tom Brady and the Patriots at Gillette Stadium during the postseason. The other important note to mention is that the rib injury Ed Reed suffered against the Bengals likely won’t hold the safety out against the Chiefs.

5. 11-5 The beat-up Saints will start the postseason on the road in Seattle. Marques Colston, Pierre Thomas, Chris Ivory, Jeremy Shockey and Malcolm Jenkins highlight a long list of injured Saints players. Defending their title won’t be easy. They’ll have to do it plagued with injuries and away from the Superdome. New Orleans will need a strong running game to help Drew Brees in the playoffs.

6. 10-6 The Packers’ 47 sacks this year are second only to the Steelers for the league’s most. Green Bay’s defense can get to the quarterback and that is the key to stopping Michael Vick and the Eagles. If Aaron Rodgers can get help from his run game, the Packers can beat anyone in the NFC.

7. 11-5 The Bears’ makeshift offensive line is very shaky. Jay Cutler was sacked more than any quarterback in the NFL ‘€” 52 times. They’ll enjoy a first-round bye but it will be difficult for Cutler and the Bears to be successful in the playoffs against teams like the Packers, Eagles, Saints and Falcons if the offensive line continues to play poorly into the postseason.

8. 10-6 Playoff experience is invaluable and the Colts are entering the postseason for the ninth straight time. As long as Peyton Manning is behind center, Indy has a chance. Once an area of weakness, the run game on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball has improved. In three straight games, the Colts held Maurice Jones-Drew, Darren McFadden, and Chris Johnson to under 50 yards on the ground.

9. 10-6 Resting his starters in Week 17 was the smartest decision Andy Reid could make. The durability of Michael Vick is definitely in question going into the playoffs. Vick has taken a beating over the last few weeks and the Eagles need to reduce the amount of hits their star quarterback takes with a healthy dose of running back LeSean McCoy. Defensively, the Eagles’ mediocre pass defense will have its work cut out against Aaron Rodgers.

10. 11-5 If the Jets want to reach the Super Bowl, they’ll have to get there without playing at home. This is not necessarily a bad thing for Rex Ryan‘s gang. They went 6-2 on the road this season. However, with the erratic play of Mark Sanchez and the uncertainty of his shoulder, it’s tough to see the Jets beating teams like the Colts, Patriots and Steelers on the road to reach the Super Bowl.

11. 10-6 The young Chiefs have a tough first-round matchup against the Ravens. One thing that will benefit them is playing at home ‘€” they were 7-1 in Kansas City. In order to advance, their great rushing attack will have to perform well against the Ravens’ stingy run defense.

12. 7-9 Seattle at the bottom of the rankings is a no-brainer. The first 7-9 team to make the playoffs will have a tough time containing the Saints offense. The Seahawks defense is one of the worst in the league. Seattle is one of a handful of teams in the NFL that allowed over 400 points this year.

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