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NFL Power Rankings (12/4/18)
Week 13 was full of stunners. Some were good, like the Chargers. Some were bad, like Mike McCarthy and Kareem Hunt. And one was just plain ill-advised. Thanks Washington.
1) Los Angeles Rams (11-1)
Last Week Ranking: 2
Last Game: beat Detroit 31-16
Next Game: at Chicago
The Rams repeat as NFC West champs and have won 11 games in back-to-back seasons for the first time in their storied history.
2) New Orleans Saints (10-2)
Last Week Ranking: 1
Last Game: lost to Dallas 13-10
Next Game: at Tampa Bay
Saints were shut out in the first half for the first time all season. Their 176 yards of offense was the team’s lowest since 2001.
3) Los Angeles Chargers (9-3)
Last Week Ranking: 4
Last Game: beat Pittsburgh 33-30
Next Game: vs. Cincinnati
On their first national TV appearance since 2014, the Chargers showed the league that they will be a dangerous team down the stretch. Unlike previous years, these Chargers believe they will make a big play when they need it.
4) Kansas City Chiefs (10-2)
Last Week Ranking: 3
Last Game: beat Oakland 40-33
Next Game: vs. Baltimore
I think the most stunning aspect of the Kareem Hunt saga is not how he lied to the team or how swiftly the Chiefs acted. It is once again, how slow the NFL responded.
According to reports, the Cleveland police would not release the footage to the NFL. But the NFL did not even talk to Hunt or his representatives about the incident. Hunt confirmed that in his interview with ESPN.
The Chiefs have been applauded for releasing Hunt even though he was an integral part of their offense. But they still employ Tyreek Hill who was charged with felony domestic abuse while he was still at Oklahoma State.
So as it always seems to be with the NFL, it’s two steps forward, two steps back.
5) New England Patriots (9-3)
Last Week Ranking: 6
Last Game: beat Minnesota 24-10
Next Game: at Miami
New England played a plodding, quagmire of a game where the most excitement was this exchange between Vikings WR Adam Thielen and Bill Belichick.
6) Houston Texans (9-3)
Last Week Ranking: 7
Last Game: beat Cleveland 29-13
Next Game: vs. Indianapolis
Houston’s nine game winning streak is the longest in team history. With a favorable schedule for the rest of the year, the Texans could ride an even longer streak into one of the top two AFC playoff seeds.
7) Seattle Seahawks (7-5)
Last Week Ranking: 9
Last Game: beat San Francisco 43-16
Next Game: vs. Minnesota (MNF)
Russell Wilson’s MVP candidacy is gaining steam. He’s thrown 29 TD’s with only five interceptions and has a 115.5 QB rating. Wasn't this team supposed to be rebuilding?
8) Chicago Bears (8-4)
Last Week Ranking: 5
Last Game: lost to N.Y. Giants 30-27 in OT
Next Game: vs. L.A. Rams
Bears converted six fourth down conversions in a wacky loss to the Giants but at least they gave us this gem.
9) Dallas Cowboys (7-5)
Last Week Ranking: 11
Last Game: beat New Orleans 13-10
Next Game: vs. Philadelphia
It’s been a while since I’ve written about him, but Jerry Jones didn’t disappoint after his Cowboys upset the Saints. Here’s what he told the Dallas Morning News:
“This bunch, this team, won't be the same again. I'm serious. You win something like this against a team that well-coached, those kind of players, a caliber of team like that, and you know you've done it. The mirror knows you've done it. You change. This is a changer in here.”
Easy there, Jerrah. I get it. You’re desperate to win a title and you’ve trying to recreate your team from the 90’s. You’ve built a great offensive line and drafted a talented running back. You’ve resisted temptation and didn’t draft Johnny Manziel. And then you got lucky when you found your quarterback in Dak Prescott.
Dallas’ four game win streak is their longest since 2016. They sit atop the NFC East. Their fans should be excited. The Cowboys should be excited. But there are still questions about this team offensively. I’d hold off on printing the Super Bowl t-shirts for now.
10) Baltimore Ravens (7-5)
Last Week Ranking: 13
Last Game: beat Atlanta 26-16
Next Game: at Kansas City
The Ravens are zagging when every other team is zigging. Their running ball-control offense and stout defense may be boring to watch, but it’s working.
11) Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4-1)
Last Week Ranking: 10
Last Game: lost to L.A. Chargers 33-30
Next Game: at Oakland
Before Sunday night’s game, the Steelers were 220-0-2 when leading by 14 points or more at the half.
12) Philadelphia Eagles (6-6)
Last Week Ranking: 14
Last Game: beat Washington 28-13
Next Game: at Dallas
The Eagles have road games against Dallas and the Los Angeles Rams in the next two weeks that will determine their playoff fate.
13) Indianapolis Colts (6-6)
Last Week Ranking: 12
Last Game: lost to Jacksonville 6-0
Next Game: at Houston
The Colts who came into the game as the fourth highest scoring team in the league were shut out for the first time all year. They never had a play go longer than 20 yards all game.
14) Minnesota Vikings (6-5-1)
Last Week Ranking: 8
Last Game: lost to New England 24-10
Next Game: at Seattle (MNF)
The Vikings haven’t won a game this season against a team with a winning record. Under Mike Zimmer, they are 2-9 on the road against playoff teams.
15) Denver Broncos (6-6)
Last Week Ranking: 16
Last Game: beat Cincinnati 24-10
Next Game: at San Francisco
Philip Lindsay looks like he’s another great find for the Broncos at running back. The undrafted free agent had a career-best 157 yards rushing with two TD’s and is fourth in the NFL in rushing.
16) Tennessee Titans (6-6)
Last Week Ranking: 20
Last Game: beat N.Y. Jets 26-22
Next Game: vs. Jacksonville (TNF)
That’s about as ugly a win as there is. The Titans couldn’t stop the run and played poorly on special teams. But they remain in the playoff hunt.
17) Carolina Panthers (6-6)
Last Week Ranking: 15
Last Game: lost to Tampa Bay 24-17
Next Game: at Cleveland
Cam Newton’s throwing motion was never pretty, but he looked awful with four interceptions. He was taken out at the end of the game because his first Hail Mary pass fell woefully short of the end zone.
18) Cleveland Browns (4-7-1)
Last Week Ranking: 17
Last Game: lost to Houston 29-13
Next Game: vs. Carolina
Baker Mayfield played like a rookie QB for the first time all year. Not bad considering it was his ninth start.
19) Green Bay Packers (4-7-1)
Last Week Ranking: 18
Last Game: lost to Arizona 20-17
Next Game: vs. Atlanta
It’s been a horrible season for the Packers. And while Mike McCarthy took the bulk of the blame, there’s plenty to go around. McCarthy’s offense was unimaginative and the game plan boiled down to having Aaron Rodgers save the team. But the Green Bay front office has a poor job surrounding Rodgers with help. In the last five years, the Packers have only used two early picks on offense. (Both Davonte Adams and Eddie Lacy were 2nd rounders.) And none of their selections in the 2015 draft are on the roster.
I understand that Rodgers is a cerebral guy and doesn’t suffer fools. But as the quarterback, I wished he used more diplomacy. His disdain for McCarthy’s game plan was evident. And I can’t help but think that it permeated throughout the locker room.
If there is a positive in this story, it’s that Green Bay can get a head start on their coaching search. But if I were a candidate and had the Packers or the Browns from which to choose to coach, I’d take the Browns. The Browns are younger and have better talent on their roster.
When was the last time Cleveland was a more attractive option than Green Bay?
20) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-7)
Last Week Ranking: 25
Last Game: beat Carolina 24-17
Next Game: vs. New Orleans
Bucs’ safety Andrew Adams had three interceptions, the most since 2009. Not bad for a guy who didn’t even have a job until late September.
21) Miami Dolphins (6-6)
Last Week Ranking: 26
Last Game: beat Buffalo 21-17
Next Game: vs. New England
How is it that even though the Dolphins beat the Bills, it feels the opposite?
22) Washington Redskins (6-6)
Last Week Ranking: 19
Last Game: lost to Philadelphia 28-13
Next Game: vs. N.Y. Giants
Washington signing the troubled Reuben Foster showed that the team thinks only of winning. But ironically, it’s this kind of signing that will keep from doing so.
Character should count for something in sports. But if you can play, someone will find a place for you. The Cincinnati Bengals have spent the better part of this century stocking their roster with players with checkered pasts. The some members of the 90’s Dallas Cowboys had notorious incidents. Al Davis always thought of himself as a rebel and built the Raiders in his image.
Foster was went home from 2017 NFL combine when he argued with a physician during an exam. In May, domestic assault charges against him were dropped after his girlfriend recanted her story. He still faced a misdemeanor weapons charge for that incident. But after the latest charge, the 49ers decided they’d had enough.
This is a different time and a different age. Teams should, to borrow a phrase, think different. Some organizations tolerate bad behavior and find excuses. Great ones find a way to rehabilitate or expunge them. Washington doesn’t have enough equity to tolerate a problem like Reuben Foster.
As for Foster himself, I wouldn’t want him anywhere my team or anyone I knew.
23) Atlanta Falcons (4-8)
Last Week Ranking: 21
Last Game: lost to Baltimore 26-16
Next Game: at Green Bay
The once high flying Falcons have only mustered 16, 19, 17 and 16 points in four straight losses.
24) Buffalo Bills (4-8)
Last Week Ranking: 22
Last Game: lost to Miami 21-17
Next Game: vs. N.Y. Jets
Bills DE Jerry Hughes denied he went after a ref at the end of the game. And yet, there’s video...
25) Detroit Lions (4-8)
Last Week Ranking: 24
Last Game: lost to L.A. Rams 30-16
Next Game: at Arizona
The good news: Detroit’s defense held the Rams to just 195 yards passing. The bad news: Detroit got to see how uninteresting their own offense is in comparison.
26) New York Giants (4-8)
Last Week Ranking: 27
Last Game: beat Chicago 30-27 in OT
Next Game: at Washington
Giants special teams save, then nearly lose, then win game against the Bears.
27) Jacksonville Jaguars (4-8)
Last Week Ranking: 28
Last Game: beat Indianapolis 6-0
Next Game: at Tennessee (TNF)
The Jaguars win against the Colts was the second time they did not score a TD this season.
28) Arizona Cardinals (3-9)
Last Week Ranking: 32
Last Game: beat Green Bay 20-17
Next Game: vs. Detroit
The Cardinals rushed for 182 yards and averaged 6.2 yards per rush in their upset victory over Green Bay.
29) Cincinnati Bengals (5-7)
Last Week Ranking: 23
Last Game: lost to Denver 24-10
Next Game: at L.A. Chargers
A.J. Green will undergo surgery for torn ligaments on his right toe that will sideline him for three to four months. Green is the fifteenth Bengals player to go on injured reserve this season.
30) Oakland Raiders (2-10)
Last Week Ranking: 29
Last Game: lost to Kansas City 40-33
Next Game: vs. Pittsburgh
I don’t know if the Raiders’ 442 yard outburst on offense is a sign of improvement or an indictment on the Chiefs’ defensive problems.
31) New York Jets (3-9)
Last Week Ranking: 31
Last Game: lost to Tennessee 26-22
Next Game: at Buffalo
With Cleveland and Green Bay cutting ties with their coaches, are the Jets next?
32) San Francisco 49ers (2-10)
Last Week Ranking: 30
Last Game: lost to Seattle 43-16
Next Game: vs. Denver
The Niners muffed a punt, stumbled on another, and bumbled a kickoff return. But they made up for it allowing an 84-yard kickoff return.