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 -- 1): I am definitely skipping "Gossip Girl" to watch the Patriots host the Houston Texans tonight. It's an important game, and it figures to be a fun one, too.

2. Denver Broncos (2): The Broncos, winners of eight straight, have 10 days to prepare and Peyton Manning gets 10 days to rest before the Ravens host the Broncos. Yeah, this could get ugly.

3. Houston Texans (3): So Andre Johnson said Monday night's game against the Patriots is the biggest game in Texans history. Didn't he say that like four times last year, including before they played the Ravens in the AFC divisional round?

4. Green Bay Packers (5): It's nice that they have been able to win games without Aaron Rodgers playing at his best, but they aren't going to go far if the passing game doesn't produce.

5. San Francisco 49ers (6): That 50-yard touchdown run by Colin Kaepernick is the kind of explosive play Jim Harbaugh had in mind when he put the kid at quarterback over Alex Smith.

6. New York Giants (7): This week on "As the Giants Turn," rookie running back David Wilson piles up 327 all-purpose yards as the Giants thump the New Orleans Saints by a 42-27 margin.

7. Atlanta Falcons (7): They still have a comfortable cushion for the top seed in the NFC, but that was a bad loss to the Carolina Panthers, who lost to the Kansas City Chiefs the previous week.

8. Indianapolis Colts (9): They have won seven of eight games, with six of those wins coming by a touchdown or less. Rookie Andrew Luck looks like the real deal, especially late in games.

9. Washington Redskins (NR): Man, was it thrilling to watch Robert Griffin III do his thing in person Sunday. Kudos to Kirk Cousins, too.

10. Baltimore Ravens (8): They had won 15 straight games immediately following a loss, so it feels weird writing about a losing streak in Baltimore. But the Ravens are reeling right now, and looking at the final three games on their schedule, they could keep sliding, though I doubt they will screw around and miss the playoffs.

11. Seattle Seahawks (NR): What more can you say about their D? They shut out the Arizona Cardinals, forced eight turnovers and took two to the house. Or does that just say more about how pathetic the Cardinals are?


On the rise: Cleveland Browns. Surprisingly, they are the lone AFC North team to go 3-0 the past three weeks.

Free-falling: Tampa Bay Buccaneers. We knew they would get tested down the stretch. So far they have failed.