Matt Vensel's Monday morning NFL power rankings

The Baltimore Sun

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 (last week -- 2): After blowing the doors off teams early, the Falcons edged out inferior teams the past three weeks. They're the only NFL’s undefeated team, though.

2. New York Giants (11): Maybe the Giants, who have won four of five, won't be coasting toward the postseason after all. They made quite the statement in San Francisco on Sunday.

3. Houston Texans (1): The Texans are still a very good team even though they lost by 18 points to the Green Bay Packers. You'll see this weekend when they host the Ravens at Reliant Stadium.

4. San Francisco 49ers (3): After throwing six picks in his past 21 regular-season games, Alex Smith threw three in Sunday's loss. They play the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday for the division lead.

5. Baltimore Ravens (5): Sunday’s tight win over the Dallas Cowboys was a costly one. The Ravens lost cornerback Lardarius Webb to a knee injury and they may lose linebacker Ray Lewis for the season, too. But I’m not going to dock them for sustaining injuries, especially not during a four-game winning streak.

6. Chicago Bears (6): The Bears had a bye week. Their next game is a Monday night showdown with the struggling, but still formidable Detroit Lions a week from today. Should be a good one.

7. Green Bay Packers (NR): You wouldn’t like Aaron Rodgers when he is angry. The Packers picked up a big win over the Texans thanks to six touchdown passes from their star quarterback.

8. Seattle Seahawks (NR): The Seahawks appear to be legit, especially when they are at home. They made just enough plays to stun Tom Brady and the New England Patriots on Sunday.

9. New England Patriots (4): This is a tough team to figure out. They have looked unbeatable for stretches in all of their games, yet here they are with a 3-3 record, tied for the AFC East lead.

10. San Diego Chargers (9): The Chargers host the Denver Broncos tonight. If they win, they will be one of three AFC teams -- the Texans and Ravens are the others -- with winning records.

11. Minnesota Vikings (7): They got RGIII-ed Sunday. Enough said.

On the rise: Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins have won two straight games, and they lost in overtime in their previous two games. Improbably, they are in a four-way tie atop the AFC East.

Free-falling: Cincinnati Bengals. It doesn't look like the Bengals will be a serious threat to the Ravens. They are now 3-3 after losses to the Dolphins and Cleveland Browns. Really, the Browns?

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