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San Francisco beats Patriots, claims top spot in rankings
December 19, 2012 - Andy Heintz
Another wild and wacky weekend in the NFL shifted more teams around in my top 10. For the most part, it is the usual suspects in different spots. However, Baltimore and Chicago have both vanished from the list after each has suffered three straight losses. New to the rankings this week are the Minnesota Vikings and the Washington Redskins and both will be in big games this weekend to see who ends up with one of the final three playoff berths.
10. Minnesota Vikings, 8-6
Adrian Peterson is chasing Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record and guiding the Vikings into the playoff picture as well. If Minnesota gets in, Peterson is the MVP of the league. That is pretty miraculous after tearing an ACL last season.
9. Indianapolis Colts, 9-5
The Colts aren’t getting much credit from national pundits because the team was a playoff franchise prior to last season. But, upper management gutted the roster in the offseason and left this season in the hands of rookie QB Andrew Luck. With one Pro Bowl weapon and several other no name guys, he has team performing at a high level and ready to clinch a playoff berth this weekend against the lowly Chiefs.
8. Washington Redskins, 8-6
Robert Griffin III has been great, but the Redskins are much more than just one guy. Fellow rookie Alfred Morris is among the league leaders in rushing and rookie QB Kirk Cousins led the Redskins to a win last weekend in the absence of the injured Griffin. Of all the NFC teams fighting for the two wild card berths, the Redskins, winning of five straight, have the most realistic shot.
7. Seattle Seahawks, 9-5 The Seahawks have won three straight and are 6-0 at home this season. They have scored at least 50 points in each of the last two games but still trail the first-place Niners in points scored this year. That may be a product of who they have played, but there is no question the Seahawks are much better than they were when San Francisco beat them earlier in the year and Sunday night’s showdown is in Seattle.
6. Green Bay Packers, 10-4
Despite plenty of injuries, the Packers are finding ways to win games down the stretch and should be recognized as a Super Bowl contender this year. They have three straight games and are one bad call on Monday Night Football away from holding down the No. 2 seed in the NFC.
5. Houston Texans, 12-2
I will preface this by saying the top five teams can be interchangeable as all five teams along with Green Bay are really the only teams in the league I feel can win the Super Bowl. Houston’s blowout loss to New England still sits in my head. They are going to have to beat good teams moving forward or the lack of respect will continue.
4. New England Patriots, 10-4
The Patriots have outscored their opponents this season by 191 points and are the first team in the league to score 500 points. To put that into an even more perspective, the only other team in the league to have scored more than 400 points is the Denver Broncos. The Niners shocked New England in Foxboro, Mass., last weekend but New England managed to move the ball against the league’s best defense.
3. Atlanta Falcons, 12-2
The Falcons biggest asset moving forward may be the Georgia Dome as Atlanta is 7-0 at home. The win over the defending Super Bowl champions was impressive as well. The doubters are still wondering if the Falcons can continue their run into the postseason, something they have not been able to do with Matt Ryan under center.
2. Denver Broncos, 11-3
The Broncos have won nine straight games and if Peterson does not win the MVP award, then Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning will. Despite shoulder surgery, the former MVP has really shined this season during his first year in Denver. The Broncos were a playoff team last year. This year, Manning makes them a Super Bowl contender.
1. San Francisco 49ers, 10-3-1
The Niners proved their worth this past Sunday night with an impressive win over New England in Foxboro, ending a 20-plus game win streak at home for the Patriots. The Niners defense baffled Tom Brady for three quarters and may have set up a blueprint in how to stop them. The Achilles heal may be the offense, who showed they can score quickly but also had four straight three and outs.
Bottom Five: 5. Eagles, 4. Cardinals, 3. Raiders, 2. Jaguars, 1. Chiefs.
Rising: Broncos, Redskins, Vikings.
Falling: Texans, Giants, Bears, Ravens.
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