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Gail Burton/Associated Press
Given how Week 11 started, it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to expect surprises galore across the NFL. The melee that marred the end of Thursday’s tilt between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns was unlike any we’ve seen before.
There were some unexpected outcomes. The Atlanta Falcons continued their post-bye rampage, blasting the Panthers in Carolina. It wasn’t especially shocking that the red-hot Baltimore Ravens beat the Houston Texans, but the ease with which they dispatched a division-leading squad for the second time in three games sent jaws to the floor—and caused a shake-up at the top of these power rankings.
There were also a few near-misses. The Denver Broncos and Arizona Cardinals raced out to big leads on the road over the Minnesota Vikings and San Francisco 49ers, respectively, but they couldn’t hold on. And while the Detroit Lions gave the Dallas Cowboys a run for their money, another huge game from Dak Prescott was too much to overcome.
That was the real story. For the most part, the teams we expected to win did, whether it was the 49ers or the New England Patriots, who got back to the business against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Given that, there wasn’t a lot of movement at the top of the NFL power rankings heading into Week 12, but there was plenty of jockeying in the middle. Just as they have every week, Bleacher Report NFL analysts Gary Davenport, Brad Gagnon and Brent Sobleski put their heads together to sort through the league’s pecking order.
Latest on The Lefkoe Show, Lefkoe and Westbrook are reeling from an ugly Eagles loss to the Patriots (New England superfan Pat Pat returns to rub it in a little too much), and Rob Gronkowski calls in to talk about his epic plans for Super Bowl week. Plus, Lefkoe and Westbrook weigh in on the two biggest storylines this week: Myles Garrett’s helmet-swinging incident and Colin Kaepernick‘s free agent QB workout. And of course, Lefkoe attempts to sell Westbrook on another installment of America’s favorite fake reality show, “Bengal Tank.” Check it out here.
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Jason O. Watson/Getty Images
Last Week: 32
Week 11 Result: Lost at Oakland 17-10
Well, the Cincinnati Bengals are finally first at something.
Thanks to their loss to the Oakland Raiders on Sunday—coupled with other results around the league—they are the first team to be eliminated from postseason consideration.
The fact that it happened in Week 11 is bad. That they are searching for win No. 1 with six games to play is worse.
If you’re into moral victories, the Bengals at least gave the Raiders a run for their money. But at this point, it’s fair to question whether they’ll go winless this season, though the schedule’s not especially daunting. They only play one more team that has a record above .500—and four of their last six contests are at home.
It’s also fair to wonder whether a win would be a blessing or a curse. If the Bengals become the third team in NFL history to go 0-16, the No. 1 pick in 2020 is theirs. But the Washington Redskins lurk just in front of them at 1-9.
If Cincinnati wins a game, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow or Ohio State edge-rusher Chase Young could slip through its fingers.
Winning is losing. Losing is winning.
Sounds pretty Bengals to us.
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Will Newton/Getty Images
Last Week: 29
Week 11 Result: Lost vs. New York Jets 34-17
The Washington Redskins stink.
Playing against an injury-ravaged Jets defense that has been shredded by just about every opponent, rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins managed just 214 passing yards and was sacked six times. Tailbacks Derrius Guice and Adrian Peterson combined for 49 rushing yards on 16 carries. Washington had 225 yards of total offense.
The defense didn’t fare much better. Going up against the NFL’s last-ranked offense, the unit surrendered 400 total yards and 34 points. Jets quarterback Sam Darnold flirted with 300 passing yards and tossed four touchdowns. Washington’s pass rush tallied just two sacks against a team that came into Week 11 second in sacks allowed.
There isn’t a facet of the game where the Redskins aren’t a hot mess—and they don’t appear to be close to any solutions.
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Steven Ryan/Associated Press
Last Week: 31
Week 11 Result: Bye Week
New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones applied for a trademark on his “Danny Dimes” nickname in October, according to ESPN’s Jordan Raanan.
“The application has a long list of goods and services for the Danny Dimes likeness that includes video games, football helmets, trading cards, crayons, bumper stickers, clothing and toys,” Raanan wrote.
It’s good to see that the rookie has his priorities in order.
Jones and the G-Men have been in free-fall since DJ captivated fans with wins in his first two starts, dropping six in a row. And Jones has been a turnover machine. The sixth overall pick has turned the ball over a staggering 17 times in nine games, including nine lost fumbles.
It’s not entirely Jones’ fault that the Giants are bad—the skill-position players have been beset by injuries, and the defense isn’t good (27th leaguewide).
But a quarterback can’t turn over the ball multiple times in just about every game and expect to have success.
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Michael Reaves/Getty Images
Last Week: 28
Week 11 Result: Lost vs. Buffalo 37-20
It was fun while it lasted.
For much of 2019, the Miami Dolphins looked like the worst team. But they showed signs of life, peeling off back-to-back wins over the Jets and Indianapolis Colts in Weeks 9 and 10.
Here’s the thing, though—they are still bad.
Miami’s running game was beyond terrible against the Buffalo Bills. Like 13 carries for 23 yards terrible. Veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was forced to drop back to pass 45 times, and the beard took a beating. He was sacked seven times and hit 14 others.
In some respects, Sunday’s loss was for the best. More victories will only cost the most talent-deficient team positioning in next year’s draft.
The Dolphins haven’t quit, and that’s a testament to first-year head coach Brian Flores. But maximum effort in defeat is probably the best the Dolphins can hope for over the next six weeks.
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Scott Taetsch/Getty Images
Last Week: 30
Week 11 Result: Won at Washington 34-17
Don’t look now, but the New York Jets might not be completely awful.
After taking on Washington in Week 11, they have won consecutive games for the first time in over a calendar year. And in doing so, they offered their beleaguered fans a couple of reasons for optimism.
Quarterback Sam Darnold is the biggest one.
Sure, his performance came against one of the worst defenses, but the second-year signal-caller was impressive Sunday, tossing four touchdowns and coming up just short of 300 passing yards. Veteran wideout Jamison Crowder continued to have a quietly solid season, reeling in five passes and finding the end zone for the third consecutive week. Young safety Jamal Adams posted his second straight huge game, notching three sacks.
This winning streak carries a sizable asterisk given that it’s come against a pair of teams that are as bad as most perceive the Jets to be.
But two wins in a row is two wins in a row—the Jets will take them any way they can get them. In fact, Gagnon thinks this could just be the beginning.
“This team was always too talented to remain a complete basement-dweller,” he said. “They’ve at least proved the last couple of weeks that they’re a lot better than the worst of the NFC East [Giants, Washington]. Looking at their schedule, they could easily turn this into a long winning streak.”
Jets fever. Catch it!
Actually, don’t. It laid Darnold up for a month.
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Leon Halip/Getty Images
Last Week: 25
Week 11 Result: Lost vs. Dallas 35-27
On some level, the Detroit Lions deserve credit for hanging in there Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys.
The team has been beset by injuries. With Matthew Stafford out because of fractures in his thoracic spine, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Lions turned to Jeff Driskel at quarterback. And to his credit, Driskel played pretty well in Week 11, throwing for 209 yards and two scores with a passer rating of 109.3.
Detroit’s leading rusher Sunday was Bo Scarbrough, who carried the ball 14 times for 55 yards and a touchdown. Those numbers aren’t especially good, but they also aren’t bad for a player who was added to the active roster Saturday.
The Lions started the season 2-1-1. But players started going down, and losses piled up. Now, with just one win over its last seven games, Detroit is in an all-too-familiar spot—looking up from the NFC North basement.
There’s at least a silver lining of sorts. The next game is against the one-win Redskins. If the Lions can’t get the W in Washington, then there may not be another in 2019.
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Stephen Maturen/Getty Images
Last Week: 24
Week 11 Result: Lost at Minnesota 27-23
The Denver Broncos have become the masters of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. They lost by two points on a last-second field goal against the Chicago Bears in Week 2. They had a similar fate two weeks later against the Jacksonville Jaguars. And against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 8.
In Week 11, the Broncos’ misery was next-level. In the first half of Sunday’s early slate, they pasted the Vikings 20-0 in Minnesota. It’s too bad that games have two halves. The second frame was all about the Vikings. After outscoring the Broncos 27-3, Minnesota squeaked out a win to go to 8-3.
For all of the Broncos’ problems at quarterback, they’ve remained competitive more weeks than not. Four of their seven losses have come by 10 points combined.
But good teams find ways to win the close ones. Bad teams find a way to lose them.
The Broncos are once again stuck in the latter category.
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Julio Aguilar/Getty Images
Last Week: 22
Week 11 Result: Lost vs. New Orleans 34-17
Stop me if you’ve heard this before…
…Jameis Winston threw a bunch of interceptions.
After tossing four more picks in Sunday’s defeat, Winston boosted his league-leading total to 18. That ties his career high—with six games to go.
Over four-plus NFL seasons, Winston has turned over the ball 98 times in 66 games. But head coach Bruce Arians doesn’t believe his quarterback is that turnover-prone, per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times.
“I would say he has 10, you know?” Arians said of Winston’s interceptions. “Guys dropping balls and giving them to the other team. How many have we seen? I don’t count those. Ten. He got hit low. The ankle, the last one flies out of his hand high. He probably should’ve come out of the game.”
Arians can fudge the numbers, but it’s not like this is a new problem.
With another season circling the drain, the Buccaneers face a decision regarding Winston that could define the franchise for years.
“Tampa Bay’s season is done at 3-7,” Sobleski wrote. “Arians couldn’t rectify Winston’s turnover problems. … The Winston era is kaput. Time to move on and starting building toward the 2020 campaign.”
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Stacy Revere/Getty Images
Last Week: 21
Week 11 Result: Lost at Indianapolis 33-13
The good news is that veteran Nick Foles was back under center for the first time since Week 1.
The bad news is that it didn’t make a difference—the Colts walloped the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have dropped two straight and four of their last six to fall two games off the pace in the AFC South.
In fairness to Foles, the way things played out wasn’t his fault; the 30-year-old quarterback threw for 296 yards and two scores. The Jaguars once-stout defense is what let the team down—the unit was gashed for 264 rushing yards and allowed over seven yards per carry.
Jacksonville’s playoff aspirations aren’t dead. Just two of its six remaining games are against teams with winning records, including the Week 17 rematch with Indianapolis.
But given that the Jaguars are 0-5 this year against teams above .500 (lost to Houston twice), the odds of a late run aren’t good.
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Josie Lepe/Associated Press
Last Week: 27
Week 11 Result: Lost 36-26 at San Francisco
For the second time in three weeks, the Arizona Cardinals gave the NFC’s No. 1 seed all it could handle—a sign that the Kliff Kingsbury/Kyler Murray Redbirds are getting better.
For the second time, that didn’t matter—a sign the team isn’t that good.
Arizona didn’t just hang with the 49ers in the first half—it dominated, racing out to a 16-0 lead. The defense, however, had no answer for San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who threw for 424 yards and four scores.
While the final score was disappointing, Sobleski saw cause for optimism.
“The Cardinals had the NFC-leading 49ers on the ropes with less than five minutes left during Sunday’s meeting,” he wrote. “Yes, they eventually lost, because they lack the 49ers’ talent. With that said, Coach Kingsbury and No. 1 overall pick Murray make the Cardinals one of the most competitive and fun-to-watch squads.”
The Cardinals could be rising from the ashes of mediocrity like a, you know, Phoenix.
Was that forced? It felt a little forced.
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Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Last Week: 26
Week 11 Result: Won at Carolina 29-3
Where the heck have these Atlanta Falcons been all season?
For the second week in a row after their Week 9 bye, they dropped a piano on an NFC South rival at home. In Week 10, they stunned the Saints. On Sunday, they obliterated a reeling Panthers team.
The play of the Falcons defense is even more surprising. The unit didn’t allow a touchdown in either of the last two contests and tallied more sacks over those matchups than the eight games prior.
This resurgence isn’t going to get the Falcons into the postseason, but it is a reminder that they have talent on both sides of the ball.
“You have to wonder if something special happened during Atlanta’s bye week,” Gagnon said. “A team that looked dead and had lost six in a row won back-to-back road games against above-.500 division rivals by a combined margin of 55-12. The Falcons are talented. They could be a big-time spoiler, and head coach Dan Quinn might save his job.”
It’s just too bad Atlanta’s weapons took the first half of the season off.
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David Richard/Associated Press
Last Week: 23
Week 11 Result: Won vs. Pittsburgh 21-7
It’s been that kind of year for the Cleveland Browns.
They won consecutive games for the first time this campaign by downing Pittsburgh on Thursday night. It was also the first time since they rejoined the NFL in 1999 that they defeated both the Steelers and Ravens in the same season.
But no one’s talking about that. All anyone is (or will be) talking about is the season-ending suspension the NFL handed to star defensive end Myles Garrett after he hit Mason Rudolph in the head with the Pittsburgh quarterback’s own helmet during an on-field melee.
It was an act there’s no place for in today’s NFL, but to Davenport, it’s emblematic of a larger problem.
“The Browns have displayed an alarming lack of discipline, whether it’s with player ejections—like tackle Greg Robinson getting tossed for kicking a guy—to unforced errors and penalties galore,” he said. “This is a talented team, but its mini-winning streak doesn’t come close to compensation for its season-long inability to get out of its own way.”
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Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press
Last Week: 20
Week 11 Result: Lost vs. Kansas City 24-17 (Mexico City)
We may be watching the end of an era for the Los Angeles Chargers.
Veteran quarterback Philip Rivers is in the final year of his contract. If the last two games are any indication of what the 37-year-old has left, he won’t get another one. Not as a starter.
For the second consecutive game, Rivers was awful—this time on Monday night against the Kansas City Chiefs. He threw four interceptions in a game the Chargers outgained the Chiefs by over 200 yards in the first half.
Rivers should have had five picks—he put up a wounded duck that Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu dropped.
It’s the story of the Chargers’ season: The team stays close and then loses in heartbreaking fashion. All seven Chargers losses have been one-score defeats.
This team was picked to win the AFC West by more than a few pundits—including the NFL writers here at Bleacher Report. It wasn’t an outlandish prediction after Los Angeles went 12-4 last year.
That playoff team is long gone. It’s been replaced by a pitching, lurching mess of a squad that flatly refuses to get out of its own way.
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Kyusung Gong/Associated Press
Last Week: 19
Week 11 Result: Lost at Los Angeles Rams 17-7
The Chicago Bears are toast. They aren’t going to repeat as NFC North champions. Or make a second consecutive trip to the postseason.
They seemed to admit as much when they benched quarterback Mitchell Trubisky with about three minutes left in Sunday night’s defeat. Per Pete Blackburn of CBS Sports, Bears head coach Matt Nagy said Trubisky was pulled because of a hip injury and not poor play. But plenty of folks aren’t buying that.
According to Adam Rank of NFL Network, the why isn’t nearly as important as the when.
“Benching Trubisky at this point is like a restaurant comping your meal after you get food poisoning,” he tweeted. “It’s too late, I’m already sick.”
Cold sweats. Nausea. Maybe a little vomiting.
Yeah, food poisoning does a pretty good job of summing up the effect the 2019 Bears have had on their fanbase.
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Ron Schwane/Associated Press
Last Week: 13
Week 11 Result: Lost at Cleveland 21-7
The dominant storyline from Thursday’s matchup in Cleveland was the fracas that resulted in three suspensions.
Had that unfortunate mess not occurred, the dominant storyline would have been a much more concerning one for the Steelers.
Quarterback Mason Rudolph looked terrible.
Yes, he had a depleted cadre of skill-position players at his disposal because of injuries. But that doesn’t come close to mitigating the second-year pro’s worst NFL game, which featured four interceptions and a passer rating south of 40.
If anyone still thought Rudolph might be a long-term option for the Steelers under center, they have been disabused of that notion. The more pressing question is whether Devlin Hodges gives the Steelers a better chance to win than Rudolph.
“The Steelers still have one of the better defenses in the NFL,” Davenport said. “But with injuries mounting on offense and Rudolph coming off a god-awful outing against the Browns, a playoff window that had widened a fair amount over the last month may have slammed shut over the span of four quarters on the shores of Lake Erie.”
“Pittsburgh won’t touch the playoffs with Rudolph at quarterback,” Gagnon added. “He does a lot more harm than good, which is a shame considering the talent on defense. They’d be better off turning back to Hodges and approaching things the way they did against the Los Angeles Chargers last month.”
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Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images
Last Week: 15
Week 11 Result: Lost vs. Atlanta 29-3
The Carolina Panthers are in trouble.
It’s not just that they lost at home to the Falcons. Or that Carolina has dropped three of four after a 4-2 start. It’s that the Panthers got throttled in their own building by a last-place team that had two wins entering Week 11.
The biggest reason for Carolina’s slump isn’t hard to pinpoint. After a hot start, the play of quarterback Kyle Allen has been declining steadily. In Week 11, it declined right off a cliff. He topped 300 passing yards, but he repeatedly made terrible decisions. Allen threw four picks against the Falcons, and over his last three games, he’s tossed three times as many interceptions as touchdown passes.
Despite Allen’s struggles, head coach Ron Rivera said he has no plans to bench the second-year pro.
“I’m not concerned about Kyle’s learning curve,” Rivera said, via Steve Reed of the Associated Press. “… He’s a young quarterback who is going to make young mistakes. But that is why you put him out there. We’re going to live with his learning pains because that is what the game is all about.”
Rivera is all but stuck with Allen through the end of this year. But the odds that Allen will be Carolina’s starter in 2020 are dropping by the week.
“The Panthers have been slowly crashing and burning ever since their Week 7 bye,” Gagnon wrote. “Allen isn’t good, Christian McCaffrey can’t carry the offense on his own and the defense isn’t making enough plays. They’re not a playoff team in the tough NFC.”
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James Kenney/Associated Press
Last Week: 18
Week 11 Result: Bye Week
The Tennessee Titans may have found something in quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Since entering the starting lineup for the Titans after an embarrassing shutout loss in Denver, Tannehill has guided Tennessee to three wins in four games, including a wild comeback victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 10. The Titans have gone from 2-4 and dead in the water to 5-5 and in the mix for a playoff spot.
Per Gentry Estes of the Tennessean, Tannehill has made a solid case to be brought back in 2020 as the team’s starter:
“He led the Titans to three critical home victories, and statistically, he is enjoying the best of his seven seasons as an NFL starter. His 71.3% completion rate is behind only Drew Brees (74.3%) among QBs with at least 100 passes. His QB rating (104.4) is tied for sixth among NFL starters, two spots ahead of Aaron Rodgers, a dozen ahead of Tom Brady and 15 spots ahead of Mariota, whose completion rate was a paltry 59.1%.”
Just like no one predicted.
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Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
Last Week: 10
Week 11 Result: Lost vs. New England 17-10
The Philadelphia Eagles have problems.
Many of them are outside the team’s control. Injuries have ravaged the Eagles offense. Philly took the field Sunday against the Patriots without its top running back and top two wide receivers.
The team put up a good effort, but the cold, hard truth is you aren’t beating the defending Super Bowl champions with the “B” team.
The loss leaves the Eagles in quite the midnight-green pickle.
At 5-5, the Eagles are just a game back of the Cowboys in the NFC East. But Philly also lost to the Cowboys. When Dallas comes to town in Week 16, it will be the epitome of a must-win game.
That’s because a wild-card spot is becoming more unlikely by the week. As things stand, the Minnesota Vikings are in the NFC’s No. 6 spot—with eight wins.
The odds of making up a three-game deficit over the final six weeks of the season aren’t good. Frankly, neither are the chances that this beaten-up Eagles team will top the Seahawks in Week 12.
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Michael Reaves/Getty Images
Last Week: 17
Week 11 Result: Won at Miami 37-20
The Buffalo Bills were one of last week’s biggest droppers, sliding out of the top half of the league after a listless loss to Cleveland.
The Bills got back on the right track Sunday in Miami, demonstrating just the kind of performance the team needs to not only make the postseason but do some damage once there.
The run game was clicking to the tune of 168 yards on 34 carries. The defense allowed just 303 yards and sacked Ryan Fitzpatrick seven times. But quarterback Josh Allen’s performance was most promising.
Allen had one of the better games of his career, completing almost two-thirds of his passes for 256 yards and three touchdowns without an interception.
“Don’t look now, but everyone’s favorite whipping boy, Allen, is playing extremely well,” Sobleski said. “The second-year signal-caller became the first quarterback since Russell Wilson in 2015 with five consecutive games of two touchdowns and zero interceptions. If Allen continues to play well alongside a stout defense, Buffalo goes from pretender to actual contender.”
Of course, Sunday’s performance came against a bad Miami team, but this is Buffalo’s recipe for success against good opponents as well. The defense and run game will probably be there, but Allen will have to make the plays that will win or lose the game.
In Week 11 at least, the young gunslinger came through.
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Robert Reiners/Getty Images
Last Week: 14
Week 11 Result: Won vs. Cincinnati 17-10
There is no shortage of surprises in any season, and 2019 is no exception.
But even by NFL standards, the Oakland Raiders’ play has been eyebrow-raising. After holding off a game Bengals squad Sunday in Oakland, the Raiders have reeled off three straight victories to move to 6-4. They’re tied for the AFC’s No. 6 seed—one year after going 4-12.
Oakland quarterback Derek Carr is completing 72.3 percent of his passes with three times as many touchdowns as interceptions and has a 105.2 passer rating. Tailback Josh Jacobs is averaging 4.8 yards per carry and is just 77 yards shy of 1,000 for the season. An Oakland pass rush that managed just 13 sacks last year has 10 over the past two games.
The Raiders are legit.
“The question isn’t whether this Raiders team is good enough to make the playoffs,” Davenport said. “The question is just how much damage they can do on the AFC side of the bracket—and whether they might just be able to steal the West out from under the Kansas City Chiefs.”
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Meg Oliphant/Getty Images
Last Week: 12
Week 11 Result: Won vs. Chicago 17-7
Thanks to a 10-point win over the floundering Chicago Bears on Sunday night, the defending NFC champions remain in the hunt for an NFC wild-card spot at 6-4.
But given how the Rams looked in that victory, they may not be there much longer.
Their supposedly high-octane offense managed just 283 total yards. Los Angeles ran the ball nearly twice as many times as it passed it. Jared Goff attempted only 18 passes, failed to throw for 200 yards and didn’t have a touchdown.
Were the Chicago offense not in even more disarray, two early turnovers might have dug the Rams into a hole they wouldn’t have been able to dig out of.
Long story short: While the Rams aren’t a bad football team, they aren’t an especially good one either. In a season in which the NFC is stacked, that’s a troubling development.
That’s especially so with the surging Ravens coming to town to kick off a stretch run that includes trips to Dallas and San Francisco and a home date with Seattle.
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Gail Burton/Associated Press
Last Week: 8
Week 11 Result: Lost at Baltimore 41-7
Sunday’s matchup in Baltimore between the Texans and Ravens was a test to see how Houston stacked up against the AFC’s hottest squad.
The Texans failed—miserably.
Texans were destroyed in every facet. The offense couldn’t get anything going. Deshaun Watson had a miserable afternoon, failing to hit 200 passing yards while absorbing six sacks and turning the ball over twice.
Houston’s defense could hardly slow the Ravens, much less stop them. Baltimore racked up a whopping 263 yards on the ground and 491 yards total.
Baltimore outgained the Texans by a margin of over 2-to-1 and converted over half its third downs.
Not only was the loss itself devastating, but combined with Indy’s win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Texans dropped out of first place in the AFC South.
It was an inglorious beginning to a brutal three-game stretch that features matchups at home against the Colts and New England Patriots over the next two weeks.
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Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Last Week: 16
Week 11 Result: Won vs. Jacksonville 33-13
It seems the Indianapolis Colts are glad to have Jacoby Brissett back.
In Week 10, with Brian Hoyer under center, the Colts lost to the Miami Dolphins at home. The team looked…bad.
In Week 11, with their starting signal-caller back at the helm, the Colts blasted the Jacksonville Jaguars to re-take first place in the AFC South.
It’s not that Brissett posted gaudy stats—he completed just 15 passes for 148 yards. But Brissett ran for a score and made plays when he needed to. The offense looked light-years better than in Week 10, with tailbacks Marlon Mack and Jonathan Williams gashing the Jags for 225 combined yards.
Indy’s defense played well too. Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette has been among the league’s most prolific runners this year, but Indy held him to a season-low 23 yards on eight carries, and Jacksonville had just 308 yards of total offense.
It was an impressive victory that has the Colts headed in the right direction before this week’s big showdown with the Texans in Houston.
However, it came at a potentially high cost. Per NFL.com, Mack had surgery Monday to repair a fractured bone in his hand. He’ll miss Thursday night’s tilt with Houston…at least.
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Rey Del Rio/Getty Images
Last Week: 11
Week 11 Result: Won at Detroit 35-27
Entering Week 11, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott’s name wasn’t mentioned much in the MVP conversation—or at least not as much as Seattle’s Russell Wilson, Houston’s Deshaun Watson and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson.
That’s about to change.
In Sunday’s win against the Lions, Prescott lit up Detroit for 444 passing yards and three touchdowns. It’s the second week in a row that Prescott’s thrown for at least 397 yards. The fourth-year pro’s 841 yards over the past two games are the most passing yards over such a stretch in franchise history.
Prescott also tied Joe Montana as the quickest players in NFL history to record four games with at least 375 passing yards and multiple touchdowns in a season. Two more such games will tie Prescott with Peyton Manning for the most in a campaign.
“Ezekiel Elliott may be the best tailback in the NFL,” Davenport said, “but this is Dak’s offense. Consistency remains a problem for these Cowboys, and they’re a notch below the NFC’s top teams. But when they’re on and Prescott’s hot, the Cowboys can beat anyone.”
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Stephen Maturen/Getty Images
Last Week: 9
Week 11 Result: Won vs. Denver 27-23
The Minnesota Vikings’ four-point win over the Broncos was an exercise in perception.
Some will perceive it as a gutsy display from a good team—the Vikings trailed 20-0 at halftime only to come roaring back by drubbing Denver 27-3 over the second 30 minutes.
Others will perceive it as troubling that the Vikings were in a 20-0 hole at home against the three-win Broncos at all—and another example of the inconsistency that has plagued the Vikings the past couple of seasons.
The reality, at least in Davenport’s opinion, is that it’s a bit of both.
“Given how loaded the NFC is,” he said, “the Vikings accomplished their primary goal in Week 11: get a win and stay in the second wild-card spot. But that first half is why I have a hard time envisioning these Vikings getting past the NFC’s big dogs. You might be able to dig out of a hole like that against Denver, but come out flat like that in the postseason (or even two weeks from now at Seattle), and you’ll get rolled. Minny will probably make the playoffs this year, but it isn’t getting out of the second round.”
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PEDRO PARDO/Getty Images
Last Week: 7
Week 11 Result: Won 24-17 vs. Los Angeles Chargers (Mexico City)
With the Oakland Raiders breathing down the Kansas City Chiefs’ necks, the most important thing that came from Monday night’s win over the Los Angeles Chargers was the victory itself.
But there were causes for concern galore.
Kansas City suffered several injuries on offense—wide receiver Tyreek Hill (hamstring), running back Damien Williams (ribs) and tailback LeSean McCoy (concussion) all left the game and did not return.
Kansas City’s Week 12 bye will be welcome indeed.
The bigger concern was the team’s leaky defense. Four Philip Rivers interceptions bailed out the Chiefs in Mexico City, but in the first half especially, the Chargers had few problems moving the ball up and down the field. For the game, the Chiefs allowed 438 yards—while managing just 310.
“The Chiefs are a first-place team, and when healthy the offense is as dangerous as any,” Davenport said. “But it’s deja vu all over again—Kansas City will lose in the postseason to a more balanced team that’s capable of getting a stop at a critical junction.”
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Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press
Last Week: 6
Week 11 Result: Bye Week
These are not the Green Bay Packers we’re accustomed to—and that’s a compliment.
In recent years, the Packers went exactly as far as quarterback Aaron Rodgers carried them. The run game was inconsistent. The defense was sporadic. All too often, Rodgers had to stand on his head to lead the Pack to victory.
Not this season. The money they invested in edge-rushers Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith has paid big dividends. Tailback Aaron Jones was tied for the NFL lead in touchdowns heading into Monday Night Football.
Meanwhile, Rodgers has been pedestrian from a statistical standpoint—and it hasn’t mattered.
At 8-2, Green Bay’s in the thick of the race to not only earn a postseason berth but also home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. A huge Week 12 tilt against the 49ers could further cement Green Bay’s status as not just a Super Bowl contender but also the team to beat in the NFC.
And as we saw in the Pack’s Week 10 win over the Panthers, playing at Lambeau Field this time of year can be…problematic for opponents.
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Tony Avelar/Associated Press
Last Week: 5
Week 11 Result: Bye Week
The Seattle Seahawks headed into the bye week fresh off their most impressive victory—a last-second overtime win over the previously undefeated 49ers.
In that game, Russell Wilson continued his march toward possible MVP honors. That’s not news—Wilson has been playing lights-out football all season.
However, one development could have big-time implications for the Seahawks.
Jadeveon Clowney and the pass rush woke up.
After struggling to get to opposing quarterbacks much of the season, Seattle harassed Jimmy Garoppolo to the tune of five sacks and 10 quarterback hits. Clowney was unstoppable, registering five solos, a sack and a fumble return for a touchdown.
The Seahawks have played excellent offense for most of the year, but the defense hasn’t resembled the stout Legion of Boom squads of seasons past.
If that unit can pick it up down the stretch, the Seahawks can beat any team.
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Julio Aguilar/Getty Images
Last Week: 4
Week 11 Result: Won at Tampa Bay 34-17
After the Falcons stunned them at home in Week 10, the New Orleans Saints needed a rebound game to get back to establishing themselves as one of the NFC’s best teams.
For the most part, the Saints accomplished that goal Sunday in Tampa Bay.
It wasn’t a flawless effort—they averaged 3.9 yards per carry and were outgained slightly overall.
But New Orleans converted over half its third-down attempts, and the defense was opportunistic, notching a pair of sacks and forcing four turnovers (including a late pick-six by Marcus Williams that sealed the deal).
“The Saints don’t have Seattle’s momentum or San Francisco’s record,” Davenport said. “But New Orleans has more balance than any other team in the NFC. Run game, passing game, defense…the Saints don’t really have a weakness. I also hear that their quarterback is supposed to be pretty good.”
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Matt Rourke/Associated Press
Last Week: 3
Week 11 Result: Won at Philadelphia 17-10
Here we go again.
It’s become an annual tradition. Even though the Patriots are 9-1 after Sunday’s win over the Eagles, a listless performance against Philadelphia has led some pundits to wonder if the Patriots are among the NFL’s best teams.
Sobleski has his doubts.
“The Patriots look vulnerable,” he said. “Yes, the same statement is made pretty much every year. But Bill Belichick‘s squad struggled during its last two games, and New England’s offensive issues aren’t easily repairable. The 9-1 record and strong defensive effort speak for themselves, but the Patriots are flawed and don’t quite stack up against the league’s very best.”
However, Davenport isn’t about to write off Tommy Terrific and the defending champs.
“The Patriots admittedly didn’t look great in Philly,” he wrote. “But they got the win that maintains their hold on the No.1 seed in the AFC. New England’s a lot less concerned about being the NFL’s No. 1 team in mid-November than it is with being in that spot the first weekend in February. So long as the AFC playoffs run through Gillette Stadium, the Patriots’ odds of pulling that off remain strong.”
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Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images
Last Week: 1
Week 11 Result: Won vs. Arizona 36-26
For a time Sunday, it appeared that the San Francisco 49ers might be falling prey to a hangover after losing their first game of the season last Monday night. San Francisco couldn’t get its running game going against the Arizona Cardinals and fell behind 16-0.
But the hallmark of a good team is figuring out how to win when you aren’t playing your best. And thanks to a 424-yard passing day from Jimmy Garoppolo, a big game from rookie receiver Deebo Samuel (eight catches, 134 yards) and an opportunistic defense, the Niners did just that.
Now things get interesting.
The Niners are a one-loss team with little margin for mistakes. Thanks to Seattle’s victory over them in Week 10, one loss is all it could take to drop the 49ers from the NFC’s No. 1 seed all the way to No. 5—from home field throughout the playoffs to hitting the road on Wild Card Weekend.
San Francisco’s also about to embark on a brutal stretch of games. The Packers will come calling in Week 12 in prime time, which will be followed by trips to Baltimore and New Orleans.
Hanging on to this spot in the power rankings will take everything the Niners have.
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Nick Wass/Associated Press
Last Week: 2
Week 11 Result: Won vs. Houston 41-7
Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens are en fuego.
The Ravens didn’t just beat a team that entered the game in first place in the AFC South on Sunday. They demolished the Texans, dominating every facet of the game for a 41-7 rout.
Offensively, the Ravens gashed the Texans for 263 yards on the ground, averaging 7.3 yards per carry. Jackson accounted for 86 of those rushing yards while becoming the first quarterback in Ravens history to throw four touchdown passes in multiple games in a season.
Defensively, the Texans held Deshaun Watson to 169 passing yards, sacked Houston’s star quarterback half a dozen times and turned him over twice.
It was arguably the most dominant effort of the season from a team that keeps blowing out opponents, and it led us to move Baltimore into the top spot.
“The Ravens are next to impossible to stop offensively, and the defense has steadily improved,” Davenport said. “This is the second time in three games that the Ravens have blasted a first-place team, and there isn’t a team in the NFL that’s playing better.”
“Lost in all the Jackson hoopla is the redemption of the Ravens defense, which has surrendered 20 or fewer points in five straight games, recording 10 takeaways in those five outings,” Gagnon said. “And it’s not as though they’ve been bullying slouches. Their blowout win over Houston is their third in the last five weeks that came by a double-digit margin against a winning opponent.”