Matt Vensel's Monday morning NFL power rankings

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 -- 3): Their 13-6 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday night wasn't pretty, but that's their style of play and it's hard to argue with the results. Now let's just hope that wasn't a Super Bowl preview because zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

2. Green Bay Packers (6): The Packers had a bye week, but what I saw from the teams in my top five reaffirmed what I was thinking last week: the Packers are again the team to beat in the NFC.

3. Denver Broncos (7): Talk about a complete effort. The Broncos, winners of four straight, got touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams in Sunday's 22-point win over the Carolina Panthers.

4. Atlanta Falcons (1): Unsurprisingly, the Falcons lost their first game after spending the past two weeks talking about how they get no respect and how they wanted to go undefeated.

5. San Francisco 49ers (5): A tie? At least they don't have to worry about tiebreaking scenarios down the stretch.

6. New England Patriots (8): In two games against the Buffalo Bills this season, Tom Brady and the Patriots scored 89 points. So much for that rebuilt Bills defense giving them problems.

7. Chicago Bears (2): Given how he was playing, I'm not sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing that Jay Cutler got knocked out of Sunday's game. But here's hoping he is OK after that headshot.

8. Pittsburgh Steelers (9): They play the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday night. Sure, that should be an easy win. But the ensuing short week should benefit the Ravens heading into Sunday.

9. Baltimore Ravens (10): The blowout win over the Oakland Raiders was their most complete game of 2012. We'll see if they bottle up that mojo and take it with them to Pittsburgh for this critical AFC North showdown.

10. New York Giants (4): Two weeks ago, they looked like the team that won the Super Bowl last winter. But now they are fading after back-to-back losses, including Sunday's head-scratcher versus the Cincinnati Bengals.

11. Indianapolis Colts (11): Are they the real deal? We'll find out Sunday when they travel to New England.


On the rise: New Orleans Saints. Their playoff odds remain long, but the streaking Saints aren't done yet.

Free-falling: The rest of the AFC East. A month ago, this division race was gridlocked, but not anymore. The Patriots, the only AFC East team to win a game in the past two weeks, are now running away with the division.