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Only unbeaten team takes over atop new rankings
October 16, 2012 - Andy Heintz
Sometimes, the National Football League is tough to figure out. One week, a contender falls flat on their face, and then the next week they look like they are going to lose the rest of the season. This past weekend was another one of those weekends as the 49ers, Patriots, Texans and Vikings all lost to fall down in the standings. Not saying all of those teams are contenders but they are certainly not pretenders at this point. What I have learned over the past few weeks is that nothing really matters right now. The Giants were 9-7 last year and won the Super Bowl. So you don't have to go undefeated to win a title. It is good to win, but wins or losses are not crucial at this point. Here is how I shook things out after this past weekend. Several changes in the pecking order this week as well.
1. Atlanta Falcons, 6-0
As the only undefeated team in the NFL, the Falcons climbed to the No. 1 spot this week. They have been inching closer and closer to a loss but are finding ways to win close games late. Matt Ryan had his worst game of the year with three picks but got his team into field goal range late and Matt Bryant kicked a clutch 50-plus yard field goal to keep the Dirty Birds undefeated. But how long can you rely on game-winning drives with under a minute to play?
2. Houston Texans, 5-1
If you want to push the Texans all the way down because of one loss, go ahead. I am not ready to do that just yet. Considering the Packers had to win that game to have any shot moving forward, they were the more desperate team in that game. Green Bay got a brilliant performance from Aaron Rodgers and would have beaten anyone on that day. Houston is still one of the best teams in this league but it'll be interesting how that defense plays without the services of Brian Cushing. Injuries have plagued this team in the past.
3. Baltimore Ravens, 5-1
Like the Falcons, the Ravens found a way to win Sunday against inferior competition. Part of that was that the Cowboys lent them a favor by once again having poor clock management. The Ravens offense is better than I expected and Flacco continues to get better. But can Baltimore continue to win after losing two studs in Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb? That may put even more pressure on the offense and Flacco moving forward.
4. New York Giants, 4-2
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the weekend came in the Giants' win over the San Francisco 49ers. It was not surprising that the Giants won, but how they won. That defense forced the Niners into three picks from Alex Smith and cashed each one of them in for points. The Niners won last year's regular season meeting with the Giants and then lost in the playoffs. Will we see a reversal this year? The Giants can play with anyone in the league and have proven that over the past five years. They just don't always compete the same every week.
5. Chicago Bears, 4-1
The Bears moved up despite not playing. Chicago's defense has been unreal good this season, scoring five defensive TDs in its last three games. If they can somehow get Jay Cutler to not lose games for them, it is not far-fetched to see this team making serious noise this season. I like Brandon Marshall on the outside and I love the running back duo as well. Moving forward, the defense won't continue to score points in every game so the offense is going to have to carry its weight.
6. San Francisco 49ers. 4-2
The Niners fell flat on their face in this weekend's marquee matchup. And a lot of questions on the offensive side of the ball are left unanswered. Alex Smith plays great against inferior competition but seems to struggle in the biggest of games. Can he lead this team to a Super Bowl? The defense is still elite, but the offense is much better when they are running the ball with Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and whoever else. They went away from the running game early Sunday and paid for it dearly.
7. Minnesota Vikings, 4-2
The Vikings ran into trouble on the road against RGIII and the Redskins on Sunday. I have said from the start of the season that the Vikings can beat anyone at home but they won't beat a contender on the road. The team is getting better and you can see that, but they are not where they need to be as a complete unit yet. They are at No. 7 this week because they are 4-2 and deserve the spot, but how long will they stay in the top 10?
8. Seattle Seahawks, 4-2
The Seahawks stunned the Patriots with their homefield advantage in Seattle on Sunday. That was another marquee matchup that went the opposite way of the popular vote. The Seahawks will be in a lot of games because of their defense, but the offense will struggle against good defenses. The Patriots have a great offense, but their defense is lacking. A big test looms for Seattle on Thursday as it visits rival San Francisco. We'll know more about who they are after this week.
9. Green Bay Packers. 3-3
Anyone who thought the Packers would stay down for long may have been fooling themselves. It is hard winning year in and year out in the NFL and Green Bay has done its fair share of winning the past few seasons. But this team still has Aaron Rodgers and they still have all kinds of weapons on the outside. If the Packers can get a running game and continue to play solid defense, they are just as much of a favorite as anyone else in the NFC.
10. New England Patriots, 3-3
It doesn't surprise me that as soon as the Patriots lost to Seattle on Sunday that someone from the Seahawks was running his mouth in the face of Tom Brady. Looks like Pete Carroll is instilling some of his classlessness into his players. Not sure firing up Tom Brady is smart, either. The Seahawks came up with another impressive win -- the first impressive win should have been a loss to Green Bay -- but New England is clearly not a 3-3 team. They'll bounce back and be there in the end.
Bottom Five: 5. Panthers, 4. Jaguars, 3. Browns, 2. Raiders, 1. Chiefs.
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