Matt Vensel's Monday morning NFL power rankings

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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): The Patriots coasted to an easy win over the Miami Dolphins, clinching the AFC East in the process. But only one touchdown pass for Tom Brady? Slacker.

2. Denver Broncos (3): Peyton Manning threw for three more touchdowns in a win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He has thrown for three touchdowns in seven of his past nine games.

3. Houston Texans (4): The Texans are still undefeated on the road after Sunday’s win against the Tennessee Titans, which is why they will probably be at home for the duration of the playoffs.

4. Atlanta Falcons (5): On Thursday night, the Falcons avenged last month's loss to the New Orleans Saints by picking off perennial Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees five times.

5. Green Bay Packers (8): They allowed Adrian Peterson to run for 210 yards, but the Packers bounced back from their blowout loss to the New York Giants with a win over the Minnesota Vikings.

6. San Francisco 49ers (2): If the 49ers are going to go back to quarterback Alex Smith -- I don’t think they will, nor do I think they should -- they better do it now to give him a fair chance.

7. New York Giants (9): The Giants play the Monday night game against RGIII and the Washington Redskins, and if they lose, it will be a wide-open, three-way race for the NFC East title.

8. Baltimore Ravens (7): The Ravens are kicking themselves after refusing a gift from the football gods. They still have a two-game lead in the AFC North with four games left to play after Sunday’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but they might have kissed home-field advantage goodbye.

9. Indianapolis Colts (11): They have luck and Luck on their side -- not a bad combination.

10. Cincinnati Bengals (NR): They won their fourth straight game Sunday to keep pace with the Steelers.

11. Chicago Bears (8): The Bears are fading with three losses in their past four games.

On the rise: St. Louis Rams. As coach Jeff Fisher put it, it took them 10 quarters, but they finally beat the 49ers.

Free-falling: Detroit Lions. That stomach-punch loss to the Colts knocked the Lions out of the playoff hunt.

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