Welcome to Week 11 of the BCS Style NFL Power Poll. The first four weeks of this poll have produced some surprising results. Week 10 in the NFL stayed true to several themes of the 2012 season. Teams continue to score many points but despite this, games are still close, with many being decided by just one score or less.

Through Week 10, there have been 77 games decided by eight points or fewer. That is the third-most through the first 10 weeks of a season in NFL history.

In addition, 21.9 percent of NFL games this year (32 of 146) have seen the winning points scored in the final two minutes or overtime. That is the highest percentage at this point in a season since 2003.

There have already been 12 overtime games so far in 2012, one shy of the 2011 mark (13). Week 10 featured two overtime games, including the NFL’s first tie game since November 16, 2008 (Philadelphia Eagles and Cincinnati Bengals, 13-13). The San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams finished in a 24-24 tie on Sunday, while the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 16-13 in overtime on Monday night.

With the standings tight and every win – and loss – impacting a team’s playoff position, the importance of being able to secure a victory in a close game is magnified.

“Winning in the NFL is a week-to-week proposition,” says Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith, who is 27-11 in his career in games decided by one score.

Smith’s Falcons are 5-1 (.833) in games decided by eight points or fewer this season, tied with the Indianapolis Colts for the third-best mark in the league. Consequently, the Falcons became the 15th team since 1978 to start a season 8-0, but lost last Sunday to their division rivals, the New Orleans Saints. And by just four points.

Of the top five teams this season with the best record in one-score games, four have a division lead. The Falcons, 49ers, Texans, Colts and Ravens have combined for a 35-9-1 (.789) overall record.

In Week 10, the four division leaders in the AFC – New England (East), Baltimore (North), Houston (South) and Denver (West) – were all victorious. But, as another example of the unpredictability of the NFL, none of the four division leaders in the NFC – New York Giants (East), Chicago (North), Atlanta (South) and San Francisco (West) – recorded a win. In the NFL, anything can happen.

The Falcons, who were the 15th team since 1978 to start a season 8-0, suffered their first loss of the season at New Orleans, falling 31-27. The Saints, who started the season 0-4, have now won four of their past five and have climbed back into the postseason picture.

Speaking of points, they are still going up on stadium scoreboards at a record clip despite the closeness of the games. Last Sunday was the 187th day in NFL history in which 12 games were played. The total of 614 points scored was the second highest recorded on any of those 12-game days. The high of 628 was set on October 25, 1987, which was the day on which NFL union players returned to action following a month long strike.

Throwing the football continues to be the way most NFL teams are scoring these record number of points each week. Week 10 saw seven 300-yard passing performances, bringing the season total to 80. The 80 individual 300-yard passing games are the most through Week 10 of any NFL season. 

With so many passing yards, defenses are starting to adapt, playing better in pass coverage. Teams have combined to score 39 interception-return touchdowns through Week 10, the most INT-TD returns through Week 10 of any season.

The top performers in Week 10 were Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and Saints tight end Jimmy Graham on offense. The “Red headed Rifle” as Dalton in known as in the “Queen City” led his Bengals to a semi-upset win of the defending Super Bowl Champs, who look anything but like Champions once again in November. Dalton completed 21 of 30 passes (70 percent) for 199 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions for a 127.6 passer rating in the Bengals’ 31-13 win over the New York Giants.

Graham had seven catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns in the Saints’ 31-27 win over Atlanta. In doing so, Graham is the first NFC tight end with at least 145 receiving yards, a 20.0+ yards per catch average and two touchdowns in a game since 1970 (BOB TUCKER, October 25, 1970).

The conference’s top defensive players came from Indianapolis in the AFC and Seattle in the NFC. Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, who made headlines recently for becoming a member of the Autobots , and talking trash to Patriots QB Tom Brady following a win over New England, had an interception, a sack, a forced fumble, three tackles and three passes defensed in the Seahawks’ 28-7 win over the New York Jets. Seattle improved to 5-0 at home this season.

Another cornerback, Colts DB Darius Butler recorded four tackles, one fumble recovery, two passes defensed and two interceptions, including an interception-return touchdown in the Colts’ 27-10 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

As the holidays approach, hope is still alive for teams with 4-5 records, at least history says it is.

 Since the current playoff format was instituted in 1990, 16 clubs with a losing record after nine games have made the playoffs. Last season Tim Tebow led the Denver Broncos back from a 4-5 record through nine games before clinching the AFC West title and advancing to the Divisional Playoffs against the New England Patriots after beating the Steelers in the wild card round.

Prior to Tebow’s heroics, Mark Sanchez helped lead the NY Jets as a rookie to the AFC Championship game after posting a 4-5 mark at this juncture of the season.

Week 11 promises to bring to life some of the better rivalries not just in the NFL, but in all of sports.  For the 10th consecutive season, the Colts and Patriots will meet. This time, New England will get its first look at Indianapolis rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, who is repacing Peyton Manning in the Brady vs. Manning rivalry.

The AFC West has a few rivalries and one of them plays this Sunday. The Broncos lead the AFC West by two games but the Chargers will look to cut that lead in half on Sunday afternoon.

San Diego quarterback Phillip Rivers is 5-1 in his career at Denver with a 102.5 passer rating and the Chargers are seeking their fourth consecutive win at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Despite a 34-24 loss at Tampa Bay last week, the Chargers know they can climb right back into the division race on Sunday by beating the Broncos.

The big one, the one that most NFL pundits say has taken over as the best rivalry in all sports renews pleasantries on NBC Sunday night. AFC North rivals Baltimore and Pittsburgh will meet at Heinz Field in the first of the two games vs. each other in a three-week period. The Ravens, who are looking to win their straight game vs. Pittsburgh and their third straight game at Heinz Field leads the division with a 7-2 mark but the Steelers are just one game behind at 6-3.

Before getting started with the weekly results it is important to pint point out that only teams with winning records, or teams leading their division qualify for the poll. There are eight statistical categories for which points are awarded. This seasons strength of schedule is factored in but as equally as the other point categories. Bonus points are awarded for wins and points are taken away for losses. Not every win or loss is worth the same point total.

For a better understanding on how this poll works you may click here and it is explained. This poll is not based off personal feelings or one man’s eye test. It is strictly points based and yet still, it is not perfect. But is any poll?

There are 14 teams in this week’s poll. No team fell from the rankings this week but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, now at 5-4, did join the party with a win over the San Diego Chargers.

 You are encouraged to leave your comments but please be classy. Please enjoy Week 11 of the BCS STYLE NFL POWER POLL.

I apologize that this poll is late but I encountered major problems trying to publish it this week.