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Pats move into top spot after impressive win
December 11, 2012 - Andy Heintz
What a difference a week makes. On any given Sunday the top teams in the league could get blasted and that is exactly what happened this weekend. The featured game of the week was the Texans-Patriots but it turned out to be a dud. The Falcons still can’t solve Cam Newton and the Panthers and the 49ers needed a late TD run by Colin Kaepernick to shove aside the Dolphins. Those four teams are still in my top four this week but the order is as different as ever. Here is a rundown of my power rankings this week after taking a week off due to the birth of my first child.
10. Baltimore Ravens, 9-4
The Ravens just fired their offensive coordinator and seem to be going backwards as the season moves along. They can no longer rely on a defense that is aging and are struggling to find an identity offensively. Two straight losses should transform this team back into a run-first approach on offense with Ray Rice carrying the load.
9. Chicago Bears, 8-5
The Bears are another team that is kind of moving backwards. They have suffered two straight losses even with Jay Cutler back in the lineup and the defense is no longer a strength after some injuries. Chicago sorely missed Brian Urlacher this past weekend against the game’s best running back in Adrian Peterson. Brandon Marshall is a match-up nightmare on offense but nothing else should really scare opposing teams.
8. Seattle Seahawks, 8-5
The Seahawks are playing about as well as anyone in the NFC and doing so with a stout defense and solid running game led by Marshawn Lynch. Rookie QB Russell Wilson is getting a lot of credit despite only completing 50 percent of his passes in his most recent outing. On the year though, Wilson is completing 63 percent of his throws and has 20 TDs to only nine interceptions.
7. New York Giants, 8-5
The Giants may be the biggest enigma in the league right now. One week, they dominate Green Bay and San Francisco and then lose to Washington and Philadelphia. I still they are a Super Bowl contender and I still think they can turn it on at any point. They are outscoring their opponents by 103 points and still have a dominant pass rush and an elite quarterback.
6. Green Bay Packers, 9-4
The Packers have battled key injuries all season with Jordy Nelson in and out of the lineup each week as well as big injuries to Clay Matthews, Bryan Bulaga and Charles Woodson. Greg Jennings returned from injury this weekend and the Packers managed to take over sole possession of first place in the NFC Central. This team will be as dangerous as any other playoff team come January.
5. Denver Broncos, 10-3
The Broncos have won eight straight games under strong MVP candidate Peyton Manning. No one thought this type of season would be possible after three neck surgeries but after a slow start, Manning is clearly back. He has 30 TDs and 10 interceptions on the season but has 9 and 4, respectively, in his last four games.
4. Houston Texans, 10-2
The Texans had the biggest drop in the rankings this week. In a prime time spot to show that they belonged as a Super Bowl favorites, Houston got blitzed on the road against the Patriots. Tom Brady picked a part their stout defense for four scores and nearly 300 yards. Houston is still 4-0 in the division and 9-1 in the AFC, but will have to find a way to bounce back from this loss even though very few teams beat New England in Foxboro during the second half of the season.
3. Atlanta Falcons, 10-2
The Falcons cannot seem to solve Cam Newton and the Panthers but have already clinched their division. The defense is surrendering more points each week and the offense seems to be slowing down in recent weeks. Matt Ryan was an MVP candidate during the first half but has four TDs and seven picks in his last four games. Part of that blame can be put on a non-existent running game and defense that has surrendered 20 or more points seven times this season.
2. San Francisco 49ers, 9-3-1
The only reason the Niners sit here instead of Houston or Atlanta is because they won this weekend. The NFL is a what have you done for me lately league and that applies here. San Francisco is thought to be a Super Bowl favorite in the NFC but the offense must improve if that becomes reality. The defense gave up lots of yards to Miami this weekend but held the Dolphins out of the end zone all but once in the game. The Niners should not have needed a late TD run by Kaepernick to close out the win but winning is better than losing. San Francisco is second in the league with a plus-132 scoring differential and travels to New England on Sunday with a chance to claim the top spot.
1 .New England Patriots, 10-3
The Patriots have won seven straight games and are 9-1 in the AFC. They are coming off a huge Monday Night Football win over Houston in which Brady inserted himself into the MVP discussion. He has thrown 29 TDs and just four picks this year and the Patriots are outscoring their opponents by a league-high 198 points. The Patriots rarely lose games at home during the second half of the season and they are doing it again this year with their lone home loss coming in Week 2 to Arizona by two points.
Key Matchups in Week 15 New York Giants (8-5) at Atlanta (11-2) Green Bay (9-4) at Chicago (8-5) Indianapolis (9-4) at Houston (11-2) Denver (10-3) at Baltimore (9-4) San Francisco (9-3-1) at New England (10-3)
Bottom Five: 5. Titans, 4. Raiders, 3. Jaguars, 2. Chiefs, 1. Cardinals.
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