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Matt Vensel's Monday morning NFL power rankings

By Matt Vensel

10:03 AM EST, January 14, 2013

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Every Monday morning -- even during the playoffs -- I bring you my weekly premature NFL power rankings.

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

Since only four teams are still standing, this will be the last week I do the power rankings this season. It has been fun, and I thank those who took a deep breath and tried not to take these inane rankings too seriously.

1. New England Patriots (week -- 2): The Patriots toyed with the Houston Texans, who never really had a chance against the NFL’s -- by far -- highest-scoring team. Losing stud tight end Rob Gronkowski hurts, but it isn’t a back-breaking injury, as they were playing just fine without him.

2. San Francisco 49ers (6): Colin Kaepernick had more passing yards than Aaron Rodgers on Saturday, and his 181 rushing yards were the most by a quarterback in any NFL game. Like ever. In a year filled with special performances by young quarterbacks, this might have been the best.

3. Atlanta Falcons (5): They almost blew a three-score lead to the Seattle Seahawks, but they made plays when they needed them. That was a big-time drive by quarterback Matt Ryan, the kind that could shake the proverbial monkey off his back and allow him to continue his ascent.

4. Baltimore Ravens (8): Speaking of big-time drives, how about Joe Flacco? He has the Ravens on the verge of the Super Bowl and himself on the verge of greatness. It was an inspiring performance all around, but Flacco announced loud and clear Saturday that this is now his team.

5. Denver Broncos (1): That loss will linger for a long time in Denver. Peyton Manning struggled and the Broncos defense was shredded by the Ravens. But they still had the game in their grasp with a minute left to play, only to have it ripped away from them with Jacoby Jones’ TD catch.

6. Seattle Seahawks (4): They showed a lot in how they rallied in the fourth quarter, keeping their heads in the game and making plays when they absolutely needed them. They gave the top-seeded Falcons all they could handle on the road, but they simply got beat by a better team.

7. Green Bay Packers (3): Defense was this team’s undoing this season, and they had no answer for San Francisco’s offense on Saturday. They focused on defense in last year’s draft with good reason, but it may be another year or two until they are able to really reap the benefits of that.

8. Houston Texans (7): Thanks for playing, guys. Three months ago, the Texans looked like the team to beat in the AFC, but when the defense began to play like mortals -- with the exception of J.J. Watt -- mediocrity set in. They need to find a way to make their offense more explosive.