NFL Power Points: Pats in rightful place

The Ravens and Vikings had ugly losses a week ago but responded with blowout wins this week.

Updated: January 2, 2004, 3:03 PM ET
By By Ryan Early | NFL Insider
The one major flaw in the Patriots' incredible season was their opening day, 31-0 drubbing at the hands of the Buffalo Bills. On Saturday, the Patriots reversed that outcome to the point, capping an incredible string of 12 straight victories to earn the No. 1 seed in the AFC, home-field advantage through the playoffs, and the No. 1 rank in the Power Points.

The Pats are led by an opportunistic defense that not only leads the league in points allowed, giving up just 14.9 per game, but also ranks second in the league in takeaways with 41. Their offense and special teams are just average, but the Patriots' defense time and again puts the offense in position to score with great field position.

The Patriots got the No. 1 rank only because of a decision I made not to count the result of the Broncos-Packers game. As I've said many times this season, the Power Points are sensitive to blowouts, and the Packers' 28-point win over the Broncos would have catapulted them to the top ranking by a 2.8 point margin. The Broncos, likewise, would have tumbled down the rankings, dropping three points to go from third to 12th.