Twelve of the 32 NFL teams have played eight games, which places us near the midpoint of the 2012 regular season. A ccording to the National Football League, since the 2000 season, 29 teams have been at .500 or below at the midway point of the season and still made the playoffs, including the 2001 New England Patriots, who won Super Bowl XXXVI. So if your team is one of the 23 entering Week 9 with a record of 4-3 or worse, don’t worry. There’s still a plenty of football left to be played this season. 1. Atlanta Falcons (7-0) Last week: 1 With a 30-17 dismantling of the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, the Falcons moved to 7-0 for the first time in franchise history. We’re only entering November and the Falcons have a 4-game lead over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC South. Everything is coming up roses for the Falcons, who appear to have dodged a bullet with linebacker Sean Weatherspoon. Carted off the field during Sunday’s win over the Eagles, Weatherspoon appears to have a low right ankle sprain that did not require a walking boot or crutches after the game. 2. Houston Texans (6-1) Last week: 2 Houston was off last week, yet J.J. Watt still managed to harass a few quarterbacks and knock down some passes. The Texans host the Buffalo Bills on Sunday before playing four road games in a five-game stretch, including tough road games against the Bears and Patriots. 3. Chicago Bears (6-1) Last week: 4 An opportunistic defense (23 takeaways, second-most in the NFL) and quarterback Jay Cutler orchestrating a solid drive when the team needed it the most got the Bears an ugly win over the struggling Carolina Panthers in Week 8. There’s no shame in winning ugly, particularly for a team that was coming off a short week and has a quarterback (Cutler) dealing with a rib injury. 4. San Francisco 49ers (6-2) Last week: 5 Monday night’s 24-3 win over the Arizona Cardinals was an example of the 49ers flawlessly executing their winning formula. With the league’s No. 1-ranked defense, they limited the Cardinals to seven yards rushing, sacked quarterback John Skelton four times, while their offense ran more than it passed (29-23) and quarterback Alex Smith completing 18 of his 19 pass attempts, taking a few sacks (four) to avoid turnovers. With a 2 ½ game lead in an NFC West that has arguably been one of the better divisions in football this season, the 49ers are quieting those ” Jive-Turkey gobblers ” and are well on their way to more January football under Jim Harbaugh.
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Week 8 Power Rankings: Falcons still flying highest (Shutdown Corner)