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Matt Vensel's Monday morning NFL power rankings

By Matt Vensel

The Baltimore Sun

10:12 AM EDT, October 8, 2012

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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. Houston Texans (last week -- 1): This all-substance team plays the all-hype team, the New York Jets, on Monday night. I expect substance to win handily and to also see hype QB Tim Tebow.

2. Atlanta Falcons (2): It took 17 points in the fourth quarter, but they rallied to beat the Washington Redskins and improve to 5-0. They are the only AFC South team with more than one win.

3. San Francisco 49ers (3): They totally abused the Buffalo Bills, racking up 311 rushing yards and 310 passing yards while their smothering defense allowed just three points and 204 yards.

4. New England Patriots (7): How scary is this offense now that they are running the ball, too? They rushed for more than 200 yards in consecutive games for the first time since the disco era.

5. Baltimore Ravens (4): I have to knock them down a spot after narrowly beating the Keystone Cops in Kansas City. I think we will learn a lot about this Ravens team in the next two weeks.

6. Chicago Bears (NR): Maybe I should have had the Bears in my top 11 last week, but I have to include them now after they have scored five defensive touchdowns in the past three weeks.

7. Minnesota Vikings (NR): It looks like the Vikings are for real, and looking at the next five games on their schedule, I think they could possibly be 8-2 or 7-3 when they reach their bye week.

8. Arizona Cardinals (6): The Cardinals drew the short straw and a short week and had to play the Cardinals in St. Louis on Thursday night. They are now tied with the 4-1 49ers after that loss.

9. San Diego Chargers (9): Yeah, they lost on Sunday night to the New Orleans Saints, but that was a rowdy environment, and they looked better than the few teams that dropped off this list.

10. Dallas Cowboys (11): They got the week off and will travel to M&T Bank Stadium next Sunday. That will be a non-conference statement game for both the Ravens and the Cowboys.

11. New York Giants (NR): The defending champs have bounced in and out of my power rankings. They beat a bad Cleveland Browns team, but it’s enough to get them back on the list.

On the rise: Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers are getting healthy, they are rediscovering the running game, and they got a huge, late-second win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.

Free-falling: Green Bay Packers. Credit goes to the Indianapolis Colts for getting an emotional win Sunday for Chuck Pagano, but it puts the Packers at 2-3. Three losses are enough to get me out of denial -- this Packers team has serious issues it needs to fix.