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Matt Vensel's Monday morning NFL power rankings

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Every Monday morning, the day after my favorite day of the week but still hours before that week’s slate of games officially wraps up with “Monday Night Football,” I will bring you my weekly premature NFL power rankings.

Why Monday? Because who wants to wait until Tuesday or Wednesday for power rankings?

Why 11 teams? I don’t really have a good answer for that one. I’ve always liked odd numbers.

What am I basing them on? Who my gut tells me are the toughest teams to beat that week.

Why isn’t my team on the list!?!?! Take a deep breath and try not to take these too seriously.

1. Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons have started the season by steamrolling a trio of AFC West teams. The San Diego Chargers were the latest. Matt Ryan, who has a full arsenal of weapons at his disposal, will be an MVP candidate if he keeps playing like this.

2. Houston Texans: The undefeated Texans are the NFL’s most balanced team. Starting quarterback Matt Schaub tossed four touchdown passes yesterday. He also lost part of his earlobe and quickly returned, which was equally as impressive.

3. San Francisco 49ers: After beating Green Bay and Detroit in primetime games by eight points apiece, San Francisco had a bit of a letdown against the Vikings in Minnesota. The 49ers are probably kicking themselves after a handful of miscues in yesterday's loss.

4. Green Bay Packers: The Packers play the Seahawks tonight in Seattle, always a tough place to play. They need a win to keep pace with the Chicago Bears and the Vikings -- really -- in the NFC North.

5. Baltimore Ravens: What a win that was at M&T Bank Stadium last night, maybe the most entertaining game I’ve covered. Now they must keep their focus and emotions in check heading into this short week. Thankfully, they play Cleveland at home Thursday night.

6. New York Giants: The Giants have rebounded nicely after losing their opener to the Dallas Cowboys. They made Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton look totally lost out there Thursday night.

7. Arizona Cardinals: They are one of three undefeated teams and they lead the NFL in scoring defense. So why are they ranked this low? Kevin Kolb. He hasn’t hurt them so far, but he just isn’t all that good. Then again, I said that about Alex Smith last season.

8. New England Patriots: The Patriots are 1-2 after losses to the Cardinals and Ravens. But does anyone actually think they won’t win their division and be a threat in the playoffs in a few months?

9. Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles have given themselves a high degree of difficulty the past three weeks with a slew of turnovers. They couldn't overcome three fumbles against the Cardinals yesterday, including one returned for a touchdown.

10. San Diego Chargers: It usually isn’t good when one of your safeties has to make 15 tackles. Here’s a factoid for you: Atari Bigby’s 15 tackles yesterday were five more than former Ravens linebacker Jarret Johson has made for them all season.

11. Dallas Cowboys: With 11 teams at 2-1 and a few quality teams -- Detroit, Denver, Pittsburgh -- at 1-2, I could have went with a few teams here. They get the nod due to the cheerleader tiebreaker.

On the rise: Minnesota Vikings. Don’t look now, but QB Christian Ponder and the Vikings are 2-1 after yesterday’s win. Do they have staying power? Maybe. They don’t play tough division foes Green Bay or Chicago until late November.

Free-falling: New Orleans Saints. The Saints are 0-3 after blowing an 18-point lead to the previously-winless Kansas City Chiefs. With such a tough schedule, these guys are nowhere near rock bottom.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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