NFL Power Rankings Week 7: New England Patriots and Teams That Are Falling

Chris Stephens@@chris_stephens6Correspondent IIOctober 16, 2012

The Patriots have dropped in the latest NFL power rankings.
The Patriots have dropped in the latest NFL power rankings.Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Life was pretty good near the top for the New England Patriots until Sunday's loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Now, the Patriots must get back on track after their fall in the latest NFL power rankings.

According to NFL Draft Lead Writer Matt Miller, the Patriots dropped from fourth to ninth after their loss. A week after a dominating performance against the Denver Broncos, New England looked lost against Seattle.

The Patriots are still a top-tier team, but their inability to close out contests lately has been concerning. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick used to live for the last-minute drive, but the team has struggled to pull off the incredible wins they've became known for over the past season-and-a-half.

While fans shouldn't be concerned, it is a little disheartening to see a team with three losses by four total points.

The Patriots rank no lower than sixth in passing, rushing and opponent's rushing yards per game. However, the secondary is the one with the issues, ranking 28th with 288.8 yards allowed per game.

Their schedule is favorable over the next four games with home games against the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts. Their lone road game is against the St. Louis Rams.

New England may be struggling, but that schedule will help turn it around quickly.

Consider also that tight end Aaron Hernandez is returning to the lineup, which helps the Patriots in many ways. First, it allows Rob Gronkowski to not get double-teamed as much. Second, Brady has another big target at his disposal.

Throw in Wes Welker and an improved running game, and you have a very dangerous team.

Here's a look at other teams that have fallen from grace.


Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers had the biggest drop in Miller's rankings, going from seventh to 22nd. Miller does have an explanation for it: "I should have known better than to rank the Steelers so high last week. Putting them at No. 7 was based on paper talent and a hunch that they'd get hot and start winning. Oops."

Pittsburgh has only played one impressive game (Week 2 vs. Jets). Other than that, it was unimpressive in its win over Philadelphia and looked lost in Thursday night's loss to Tennessee.

When looking at the numbers, the only struggle point seems to be in rushing yards. Passing offense and the entire defense seem to be good, but 23 points per game tells a different story.

One has to also wonder if Mike Wallace's holdout throughout the preseason has had any effect on the team. What about the lack of a running game even with Rashard Mendenhall back in the lineup?

The Steelers have always been able to get the passing game going through a good running game. This year, though, it hasn't been there.

The next three games will be a test against Cincinnati, Washington and the New York Giants. If the Steelers struggle, they'll drop to 2-6 and chances are they won't make the playoffs.


Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals are now ranked 15th in Miller's latest power rankings after two-straight losses.

After a 4-0 start, the Cardinals were being considered for a playoff spot, especially after a win over New England. Wins over Philadelphia and Miami further solidified that.

Then there was the Thursday night game against the Rams. Since then, the Cardinals have looked sluggish and not the same team we saw in the first four weeks.

Regardless if Kevin Kolb or John Skelton is in at quarterback, the Cardinals are never going to get things going there. They rank 28th in the league in both passing and rushing yards, and the defense is expected to make up for that.

Unlike New England, the Cardinals have it tough the next few games. Three are road games at Minnesota, Green Bay and Atlanta, while their lone home game is against San Francisco.

If the Cardinals come out of that gauntlet with one win, it will be considered a miracle.

Regardless of what happens the rest of this season, the Cardinals will be after a quarterback in the 2013 NFL Draft. Frankly, Kolb and Skelton aren't the face of the franchise. Neither have the intangibles to succeed long-term in the NFL.

With a plethora of good arms expected to be in the draft class, Arizona will see a marked improvement under center. The only question is where will they pick?

The next four weeks may go a long way in deciding that.