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. New England Patriots (last week -- 4): The Patriots have won five games in a row, and they averaged 47.5 points in their past four games, outscoring teams 190-81 over that span.

2. San Francisco 49ers (6): The insertion of second-year QB Colin Kaepernick into the starting lineup has given them a spark. He played well in a pair of wins over quality opponents.

3. Denver Broncos (3): The Kansas City Chiefs slowed down Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense a bit, but the Denver defense continues to dominate. They've got a top-five defense.

4. Houston Texans (1): The Texans showed a little moxie in winning two overtime games in a span of five days, but their defense, beset by key injuries, has been showing cracks.

5. Atlanta Falcons (5): The Falcons haven't soundly beaten an opponent since late October, but they improved to 10-1 with Sunday's one-point win over the streaking Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

6. Green Bay Packers (2): They had been on a roll, but their lopsided loss to the New York Giants on Sunday night brought back to light the concerns about their offensive line and defense.

7. Baltimore Ravens (8): The Ravens have won four games in a row, and they have done it in large part with defense and special teams. The AFC North is theirs. Can they get a first-round bye?

8. Chicago Bears (7): The Bears bounced back from a bad loss to the 49ers to beat the fading Minnesota Vikings. A showdown with the Packers, maybe for the division, looms in three weeks.

9. New York Giants (10): Think the Ravens are tough to figure out? What about the Giants? They bounced back from back-to-back losses to thump the Packers, who were one of the NFL's hottest teams before Sunday.

10. New Orleans Saints (9): They lost to a better squad in the 49ers, but the Saints are still very dangerous.

11. Indianapolis Colts (NR): The Colts, who are the NFL's best story this season, are closing in on the playoffs.


On the rise: Washington Redskins. They have won two straight after their coach waved a white flag in Week 9.

Free-falling: Pittsburgh Steelers. Their worst-case scenario for life without Ben Roethlisberger is playing out.