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Week 13 power rankings

Jermaine Cunningham, Mark Sanchez

New England Patriots linebacker Jermaine Cunningham, right, almost sacks New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez (6), who is forced to throw and incomplete pass, during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game, Monday, Dec. 6, 2010, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)


There’s a general rule in these parts that the top team in the power rankings can’t lose its spot without losing.

We had to make an exception last night.

In a season that has featured far too little dominance, the No. 3 team blew the doors off the No. 2 team, and that merits a leapfrogging of the No. 1 team.

1. New England Patriots (No. 3; 10-2): The best team that everyone talks about could be putting together its fourth NFL title.

2. Atlanta Falcons (No. 1; 10-2): The best team that no one talks about could be putting together its first.

3. New Orleans Saints (No. 5; 9-3): They’re not dominating, but who is this year? (Except for the Patriots last night.)

4. Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 6; 9-3): Like Mickey said when Rocky broke his nose for the first time, “It’s an improvement.”

5. Baltimore Ravens (No. 4; 8-4): The team that has played five road playoff games in two years apparently will have to play some more.

6. Chicago Bears (No. 7; 9-3): With their last four games against the Patriots, Vikings, Jets, and Packers, the Bears could still miss the playoffs.

7. Green Bay Packers (No. 8; 8-4): This team may still be the favorite to get to Dallas in February.

8. New York Jets (No.2; 9-3): As it turns out, the Patriots really weren’t telling the truth when they said the Jets are a great team.

9. Kansas City Chiefs (No. 9; 8-4): None of the AFC’s elite teams will want to play the Chiefs in January.

10. Philadelphia Eagles (No. 10; 8-4): With two games against the Cowboys, things can still fall apart for the Eagles.

11. New York Giants (No. 12; 8-4): With their eighth win in nine games against the Redskins, the Giants are in perfect position . . . to collapse in December once again.

12. Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 16; 7-5): It looks like I’m gonna need a new toupee.

13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 15; 7-5): Sorry, Bucs, but truly good teams periodically beat other good teams.

14. Indianapolis Colts (No. 14; 6-6): All Gatorade buckets in Indianapolis will from this point forward be filled with Keystone Light.

15. Oakland Raiders (No. 18; 6-6): If the good Raiders hang around for a while, the AFC West could get very interesting.

16. St. Louis Rams (No. 17; 6-6): Meet the early favorite to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLVI. If there is one.

17. San Diego Chargers (No. 11; 6-6): Just when it looked like the Chargers would run the table, the Raiders ran all over them.

18. Cleveland Browns (No. 19; 5-7): Mike Holmgren will have a tough decision to make in January.

19. Miami Dolphins (No. 13; 6-6): Tony Sparano and Jeff Ireland may soon be available to be hired by Bill Parcells again.

20. Minnesota Vikings (No. 22; 5-7): With Favre out, the Vikings scored their most points since the first time Favre played the Packers at Lambeau.

21. Seattle Seahawks (No. 21; 6-6): Pete Carroll’s former team has been barred from playing in the postseason; his current team could end up suffering the same fate.

22. Dallas Cowboys (No. 26; 4-8): Could Jon Kitna be a better quarterback than Tony Romo?

23. Houston Texans (No. 20; 5-7): Defense wins championships. Absence of defense gets guys fired.

24. Washington Redskins (No. 22; 5-7): Maybe Dan Snyder will fire Mike Shanahan and hire Josh McDaniels.

25. Tennessee Titans (No. 24; 5-7): Randy Moss is getting the ultimate payback for years of being a bad teammate.

26. San Francisco 49ers (No. 25; 4-8): The return of Alex Smith could be an effort to get the highest possible draft picks.

27. Buffalo Bills (No. 27; 2-10): At least they didn’t lose another heartbreaker.

28. Denver Broncos (No. 28; 3-9): Josh McDaniels’ departure feels less like a divorce and more like an annulment.

29. Arizona Cardinals (No. 29; 3-9): Would the Vikings have been this bad if Brett Favre had retired?

30. Detroit Lions (No. 30; 2-10): With or without the call against Ndamukong Suh, there’s no way the Lions were winning that game.

31. Cincinnati Bengals (No. 31; 2-10): Another week, another way to lose a game.

32. Carolina Panthers (No. 32; 1-11): A Week 15 visit from the Cardinals is the only thing that could keep the Panthers from duplicating their 1-15 season from 2001.