All Shook Up: With some unexpected losses last week, my rankings were shaken up somewhat. One new team moved in, with a couple of others knocking on the door.
10. Chicago Bears (8-4) (Last week: 8) The Bears were beaten by Seattle and their vaunted defense was exposed a bit by rookie QB Russell Wilson. I'm still hanging on Chicago as a top ten team, but with Cincinnati and Seattle playing well, not to mention the Redskins, a loss to Minnesota this week will definitely knock them from the rankings.
9. Indianapolis Colts (8-4) (9) I'm still not a buyer in the Colts making it to the playoffs, but they keep winning behind Andrew Luck, so until they lose, I'll keep them on the list. Even if they falter down the stretch, it's been a remarkable run.
8. Green Bay (8-4) (10) Aaron Rodgers can propel this team to great heights, but they still have issues defensively and their division is no cake-walk, although they now lead the NFC North. They host the under-performing Lions Sunday night and we should get an idea of how well they can defend the pass against a quality offense.
7. Baltimore Ravens (9-3) (5) I bumped the Ravens down on the list due to their loss against the Steelers and questions about the health of their defense. Ray Lewis won't be active for this week's game against the Redskins and Lee Suggs is nursing a sore tendon injured in last Sunday's game. A Charlie Batch-led Steeler team shouldn't have been able to defeat the Ravens in Baltimore.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) (NR) With their victory over the aforementioned Ravens and Big Ben probably returning to host San Diego at Heinz Field, I can confidently put the Steelers in the rankings. Despite their record, they have gotten healthier for the stretch run. They will be a dangerous wild card team if they can make the playoffs.
5. Atlanta Falcons (11-1) (7) They intercepted Drew Brees five, yes five times and still could only win the game at home against the Saints by 10 points. They keep winning, so I moved them up a little bit this week. I still don't think they have the toughness to advance too far in the playoffs, but they could be just a game away from clinching home field throughout the NFC playoffs, so maybe it won't matter too much. I need to see an impressive road win at Carolina this week to be convinced.
4. San Francisco Forty Niners (8-3-1) (4) I still like the Niners in this spot, despite their sloppy loss to the Rams in overtime. Jeff Fisher came up with a way to neutralize an inexperienced Colin Kaepernick in St. Louis. Let's see how the kid performs at home against Miami.
3. Denver Broncos (9-3) (3) Peyton Manning has the Broncos humming along. Oakland, their opponent this week, can be a tough place for east coast teams, but I think Peyton will take care of business there. However, this is an intense rivalry, one that Manning didn't have to face in Indianapolis.
2. Houston Texans (11-1) (2) We'll see soon enough if the Texans can make the leap to number one, as they face the Patriots in Foxboro on Monday Night Football. Matt Schaub should have plenty of opportunities to exploit a loose New England secondary as the Texans attempt to take one more step to home field advantage for the AFC.
1. New England Patriots (9-3) (1) The Patriots were workman-like on the road against the Dolphins last week. They'll need to be more impressive Monday night. The Patriots will be tested on both sides of the ball and without some key weapons on offense.Great game for this time of the season.