2016 NFL Power Rankings Week 12: Rams Lose Jared Goff’s Debut
The NFL Power Rankings Week 12 edition is here and we’ll take a look at the biggest risers and fallers from Sunday, including the Los Angeles Rams.
The Los Angeles Rams finally put the trust in their No. 1 overall pick this week, but it didn’t pay off as the Rams once again struggled to put points on the board in a losing effort that dropped them in the NFL Power Rankings.
Goff finished with just 134 yards through the air and failed to throw for a touchdown in his debut, although he didn’t turn the ball over. Running back Todd Gurley found the end zone to end his four-game drought, however he still found little room to run and averaged just 3.8 yards per carry. His best run of the day came on a 24-yard dash that ended with the sophomore running back finding paydirt.
Even with a lack of offense, the Rams carried a two score lead going into the final frame. Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins offense went on to score two touchdowns in the fourth quarter and barely escaped with a win as a result.
But that’s enough of the Rams already. Most of you came here to see how your team stacks up against every other team in the league and you’re just one click away from getting this show on the road!
32. Cleveland Browns (0-11)
The Browns were actually in their game with the Steelers and were down by just eight points in the fourth quarter, but then Josh McCown happened. The veteran QB was sacked and lost a fumble with under four minutes left, leading to an easy defensive touchdown for Pittsburgh and a huge sigh of relief for head coach Mike Tomlin. Cleveland suffered yet another injury to the quarterback position after Cody Kessler was removed from the game early with a concussion, his second of the season. Regardless, Kessler wasn’t effective in his latest start and it’s quite apparent he won’t be the solution the Browns are looking for.
Cleveland has a messy situation on its hands at quarterback, which has unfortunately become the norm for this franchise. While many thought we had seen the last of Robert Griffin III, head coach Hue Jackson will be forced to give the injury-prone signal-caller a look if he returns. That’s right, there may be another RG3 citing in Cleveland and it could be coming soon with the 26-year-old reportedly set to practice this week.
Next week the Browns take on the Giants in the midst of New York’s five-game winning streak. Jackson’s team is just playing out the string at this point and evaluating players who can contribute next season and beyond. The biggest storyline the rest of the way will be what happens with RG3.
31. San Francisco 49ers (1-9)
The Niners’ game against the Patriots was actually close going into the fourth quarter, with the Niners trailing by just a field goal in the final frame. From there things went downhill after the Pats scored 17 points to close out the game, a deficit which the Niners were unable to overcome. Colin Kapernick threw for two scores and totaled 239 yards, but he was also sacked five times and had a hard time getting comfortable behind center.
There isn’t much to be optimistic about for the Niners these days. Kaepernick is not the answer for this team and his days in San Fran are likely numbered. That means the team will have to look to either the draft of free agency for help, and neither of those options are appealing. The defense has been one of the worst in the NFL and is badly missing NaVorro Bowman’s leadership, while the offense has few positives to speak of with its best player, running back Carlos Hyde, constantly getting hurt. It’s going to be a long, painful process in San Francisco for the next few years and head coach Chip Kelly has quite the project on his hands in fixing both sides of the ball.
30. Chicago Bears (2-8)
After a stellar first half that made it look like Jay Cutler and the Bears were going to light up the scoreboard in Week 11, Chicago reverted to Week 10 form and posted a donut in the final two quarters. Jordan Howard was silenced in the second half following a monster first and an injury to Zach Miller (61 yards and one touchdown in the first half) was the fatal blow to a Bears receiving corps that was already missing Alshon Jeffery. From there, the 16-9 first half lead evaporated and it was lights out after Cutler’s pick on the Bears’ final drive.
The amount of injuries the Bears have suffered this season is stunning to say the least. Missing a ridiculous amount of players on both sides of the ball, it’s no surprise Chicago is in the midst of another terrible season. On the bright side of things, this team does have talent in some of its younger players and the biggest concern during the offseason will be finding a reliable quarterback to replace Cutler, who is surely on his way out of Chicago after the 2016 campaign. Next up for the Bears in Week 12 will be the Titans, a team coming off a tough loss to the Colts in Week 11. At best the Bears will try to play spoiler the rest of the way.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-8)
This was supposed to be a week when the Jaguars snapped out of their funk and put up some points against a lackluster Lions defense. Sorry to say, nothing has changed for the Jaguars and Blake Bortles was once again depressing to watch. The third-year quarterback totaled just 202 yards through the air and threw a pair of scores and picks, while No. 1 receiver Allen Robinson corralled just three pass for 18 yards and a touchdown. Running back Chris Ivory was the lone bright spot for the Jags on offense with 114 total yards, including 75 receiving yards. Ivory has certainly earned more work moving forward, for what it’s worth.
The disappointing season continues for the Jaguars and those waiting for an explosion can just stop. Bortles has regressed badly and it’s taking down the entire offense around him. Head coach Gus Bradley should start packing his things now because this team is playing well below the playoff expectations it had coming into the season. The team’s problems are squarely on Bradley’s shoulders and gone are the days when the Jaguars were a trendy pick to make the playoffs. There won’t be any reprieve for this offense either, with a solid Bills defense to deal with this coming Sunday.
28. New York Jets (3-7)
The only thing that can stop the bleeding for Gang Green is a bye week. After getting past what was supposed to be the toughest part of a schedule in human history, the Jets are just 2-2 following two straight losses to the Dolphins and Rams in consecutive weeks. The Jets are on their third quarterback of the season with Bryce Petty behind center, who struggled in the loss to Los Angeles in Week 10. Petty didn’t fare much better than Ryan Fitzpatrick has this season and his turnover in the fourth quarter on the team’s last drive cemented another loss for the Jets.
Any dreams of the playoffs waived goodbye to the Jets a long time ago. This is a team in transition right now and it would be wise for New York to see what it has in Petty, as Fitzpatrick is almost certain not to be back next season. Even that seemingly obvious decision is in doubt with reports suggesting head coach Todd Bowles is afraid to commit to Petty for fear of a revolt in the locker room. Bowles has become a disaster in the Big Apple, whether it’s dealing with this situation or something like players showing up late to meetings with little repercussions. The Jets are a team divided and out of control, and that falls on the head coach. Quarterback isn’t the only thing the Jets need to change after this season.
27. Cincinnati Bengals (3-6-1)
As if a 16-12 loss to the Bills wasn’t bad enough, Cincinnati looks like it’ll be without superstar receiver A.J. Green for what could be the rest of the season. The wideout suffered a serious hamstring injury in the first quarter that necessitated his being carted off the field and after the game it was discovered he has a torn hamstring. Losing Green understandably sunk the offense and quarterback Andy Dalton barely broke 200 yards through the air. Adding to the Bengals’ problems on offense, Dalton threw two interceptions, one of which came at the end of the first half in Bills territory. The ground game wasn’t much better, mustering up 93 yards on 27 carries (3.4 YPC).
There is no way this Bengals team can overcome a loss to Green. Cincinnati has been playing inconsistent all season even with Green healthy, and it’s just not clear where the offense is going to come from the rest of the way. If this epic failure of a season isn’t enough for head coach Marvin Lewis to get fired then I don’t know what is. Don’t get me wrong, Lewis is a great head coach and will be employed within two seconds of getting fired, however he has clearly worn out his welcome in Cincy and it’s time for a change in leadership. The Ravens will play host to the Bengals in Week 12, but it already feels like the season is over for Cincinnati.
26. Los Angeles Rams (4-6)
Jared Goff’s debut did not go as well as Rams fans hoped, but we’ll have to give the rookie a pass considering it was his first career start in the NFL. Goff finished with 17 completions on 31 attempts for 134 yards and didn’t throw a touchdown or an interception. Running back Todd Gurley finally found the end zone, something he hadn’t done in the previous four games. Still, Gurley only averaged 3.8 yards per carry and he is no closer to breaking out of his slump than he was coming into this game. Being happy about his rushing touchdown is like putting lipstick on a pig.
While much of the blame will be placed on Los Angeles’ defense because it blew a 10-0 fourth quarter lead, the real story is how the Rams’ offense simply can’t put points on the board. In their last four games, the Rams have scored 10 points or less in each and that is simply unacceptable in the NFL no matter who is playing quarterback.
The Rams had an opportunity to move into second place with a Cardinals loss earlier in the day, however they were unable to capitalize. Instead, the Rams sit in third place and their playoff hopes are all but finished. At this point the best thing that can come out of the Rams season is a good showing by the No. 1 overall pick, who will have four games against average to tough defenses the rest of the way. If Goff stumbles his way through the final six weeks, head coach Jeff Fisher could (and should) lose his job.
25. San Diego Chargers (4-6)
If a few things had bounced the Chargers way this season, we might be talking about a team with a winning record and in the hunt for the AFC West title. Unfortunately for San Diego, that hasn’t happened and Week 10 was another example of how the Chargers keep shooting themselves in the foot. After losing by only a touchdown, the four interceptions thrown by Phillip Rivers against the Dolphins in the team’s last loss was devastating to say the least. Normally it’s another player on the team who lets the Chargers down, but this time it was Rivers’ turn.
So many lost opportunities will end up sinking the Chargers and keep them out of the playoffs. Sitting in the cellar of the division, San Diego has an uphill climb if it hopes to play past Week 17 and the division is now out of sight. Before even getting to a playoff spot, the Chargers have to jump five other teams just to have a chance – and even then the Chargers remain three games back of the Broncos and Chiefs for one of the two wild card spots. Look for the Chargers to play spoiler down the stretch, as head coach Mike McCoy’s team is slightly better than its record indicates. Sadly for San Diego, figuring out a way to win games has been an issue and it will take at least a new head coach next season – amongst other things – in order to fix that.
24. New Orleans Saints (4-6)
Two turnovers by Drew Brees proved costly as the Saints dropped their Week 11 game versus the Panthers. Carolina was able to capitalize with 10 points off of those turnovers and it turned out to be the difference in this one. It was a valiant effort at a comeback for Brees, who threw for 285 yards and two scores, which was tame considering he torched the Panthers for 465 yards and four touchdowns the last time these two teams met.
The Saints trailed 23-3 at one point, but mounted a 17-point onslaught in the fourth quarter on two touchdowns passes from the arm of Brees, one to Brandon Coleman and the other to Coby Fleener. After pulling to within a field goal, the Saints were unable to stop the Panthers on a crucial third down, ultimately leaving the Saints just 14 seconds that weren’t enough to get into field goal range.
After two straight losses, the Saints will get a Rams team next week that has a rookie quarterback behind center and has been struggling on offense all season. It’s a game the Saints should win at home, although the Rams defense does have the ability to shut teams down and must be respected. Beyond the Rams, the Saints have meetings with the Lions, the Buccaneers twice, the Cardinals and the Falcons the rest of the season.
23. Arizona Cardinals (4-5-1)
To say nothing is going right for the Cardinals this season would be an understatement. One of Carson Palmer’s two interceptions on Sunday were taken back to the house courtesy of Xavier Rhodes’ 100-yard pick six. To make matters worse, Cordarrelle Patterson returned a kickoff 104 yards for another score. Palmer’s poor play continued in Week 11 after he fell short of 200 yards and barely completed over 50 percent of his passes. Another great game by David Johnson was wasted and the Cardinals’ playoff hopes took yet another hit with their second loss in three games.
Arizona has a less than ideal situation in Week 12. The Cardinals will hit the road to take on the well-rested Falcons who are coming off a bye week and will be getting a key offensive weapon in Tevin Coleman back. Another win by the Seahawks drops the Cardinals back even further in the division and it’s wild card or bust for head coach Bruce Arians team. Considered one of the teams favored to come out of the NFC this season, it looks as though the window is closing for a veteran Cardinals team. Palmer is no longer putting up good numbers and Arizona isn’t playing defense well enough to overcome that. It will take a monumental effort moving forward for the Cardinals to change their course of what appears to be a season in which they will miss then playoffs.
22. Buffalo Bills (5-5)
A win is a win, even when it’s as ugly as the Bills victory over the Bengals was on Sunday. Head coach Rex Ryan’s team led with its defense and held the Bengals to just 300 yards of total offense, partly due to star wideout A.J. Green getting knocked out of the game in the first quarter. On offense quarterback Tyrod Taylor struggled to get much going and only threw for 166 yards, with no touchdowns and one pick. Buffalo’s rushing attack was the lone bright spot on offense after totaling 183 yards – good enough for 5.4 yards per carry – and that was without LeSean McCoy for two full quarters. McCoy, who suffered a dislocated thumb that forced him from the game early, is expected to play in Week 12.
At this point in the season, the Bills are chasing a wild card spot with the Patriots dominating the league once again this year. Buffalo is in the scrum of teams vying for a playoff spot, however the Bills will have to jump a handful of teams in order to get there. Up next in Week 12 for Buffalo will be the Jaguars, a team playing well below expectations that finds itself with one of the worst records in the NFL. Every game is a must-win for Buffalo moving forward if it hopes to make the playoffs this season.
21. Green Bay Packers (4-6)
Packers fans are not going to R-E-L-A-X with their team looking dead in the dirt following a fourth straight loss at the hands of the Redskins. While the Packers did show some signs of their offense of old, the defense was torched by Kirk Cousins for 375 yards and three touchdowns en route to 42 points allowed. The Packers were driving late in the fourth quarter down by 11, but a fumble by tight end Jared Cook put the Packers comeback hopes to bed. The Packers defense has now given up 153 points in its last four games and this team is going nowhere if that doesn’t change.
While the Packers have a slew of issues throughout the roster, the biggest problem has been the injuries to their defense, and more specifically, to the secondary. Opposing quarterbacks have been burning the Packers through the air all season and Rodgers and the Packers are not playing well enough to overcome that. Green Bay will travel to Philly in Week 12 to take on an Eagles team that is struggling just as much. The Packers now trail both the Lions and Eagles by two games for the division lead and may have to sneak into the playoffs via the wild card.
20. Carolina Panthers (4-6)
A big divisional win over the Saints on Thursday Night Football sends the Panthers up a few spots in the power rankings this week. The biggest factor in the Panthers winning three of their last four games has been the defense. Carolina has allowed just 17.5 points per game and was able to keep Drew Brees and company in check with a great defensive effort that led to Brees turning the ball over twice. The biggest story of the night was Luke Kuechly, who suffered a concussion and was carted off the field in what was an ugly moment for the NFL. The star linebacker’s status is up in the air at the moment, but this was his second concussion in as many years.
Even after the win, the Panthers remain three games behind the Atlanta Falcons when factoring in their loss to the division leaders earlier in the season. With another matchup remaining between these two division foes, the Panthers still have time to catch the Falcons. The Week 16 showdown will be a must-win for head coach Ron Rivera’s squad. It’s going to take more than just good defense for the Panthers from what has been an inconsistent unit at times this season.
Things are still very stagnant on offense, as the Panthers only mustered up 223 yards against a Saints squad ranked 26th in total yards allowed per game coming into Week 11. The offense must get rolling to beat the Falcons and that was proven when the Panthers had 48 points dropped on them in Week 4. Next up for the Panthers will be a true test of just how improved their defense is with a trip to the west coast to take on the Raiders.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5)
After an upset victory over the Chiefs that snapped their five-game winning streak, the Bucs moved to within one game of the division lead with the Falcons idle. The Bucs only scored 19 points, but that was enough to beat a KC offense that is struggling mightily. Despite the low point total, Jameis Winston racked up 331 yards and found the end zone on a pass to none other than Alan Cross. Another important stat was time of possession with the Bucs owning a 10 minute advantage over the Chiefs.
The Bucs continue to play better on the road than at home, as the win on Sunday was Tampa Bay’s fourth away from Raymond James stadium this season, and it was the Bucs’ second win in a row. A difficult matchup against the Seahawks awaits the Bucs in Week 12. Head coach Dirk Koetter’s team might be the only one in the league that wishes it could play the Seahawks in CenturyLink Field as opposed to its own building with the way the Bucs play on the road. After Seattle, Tampa Bay has three more games against divisional opponents, but none of those games are against the team the Bucs are chasing, the Falcons.
18. Tennessee Titans (5-6)
Just when the Titans looked to be taking off following an offensive explosion the last two games, they put up a clunker in Week 11 against a Colts defense that shouldn’t have been that difficult to beat. Tennessee fell behind by three touchdowns early and looked to be in for a long afternoon until mounting a comeback that led to the Titans having a chance to tie the game late. Unfortunately for Tennessee, Indianapolis was able to stuff DeMarco Murray on a fourth and one, enabling the Colts to hold onto the win.
The loss was the Titans’ 11th straight to the Colts and it’s a streak that won’t be broken for at least another season. The Titans will never be able to get over the hump and win this division if they can’t get past the Colts first. The loss sends head coach Mike Mularkey’s squad to third place in the division, but the Titans have a chance to get back on track next week in a game they should win versus the Bears. Although as the Giants found out, the Bears are not to be taken lightly and can put up a fight. After the Bears, the Titans will enjoy a Week 13 bye before playing three of their last four games against teams with winning records.
17. Indianapolis Colts (5-5)
Just when it looked like just another Sunday win for the Colts over the Titans, Andrew Luck and company completely stalled in the second half after building an early 21-0 lead in a huge first half for the Colts quarterback. Indy only posted a field goal in the last two quarters, but that was just enough to stave-off a loss to Tennessee. The Titans were driving late in the fourth quarter and were stuffed on a fourth and one at the Colts’ 19 yard line that sealed the win for head coach Chuck Pagano’s team. Perhaps the biggest story was an Indianapolis defense that held a red-hot Tennessee offense to just 17 points with almost no second half support from the other side of the ball.
The win for Indianapolis was a big one, as it puts the Colts in second place and ahead of the Titans for the moment. Should the Texans lose on Monday night against the Raiders, the Colts will be looking at a two-game deficit when counting Indy’s loss to Houston earlier in the season. The top two teams in the AFC South will meet again in Week 16, so the Colts will have ample opportunity to take the division lead down the road. Before the Colts can worry about that they have to tame a Steelers offense that has struggled of late but can go off at any moment. It’s an inevitable shootout, unless of course the curse of Thursday football rears its ugly head.
16. Philadelphia Eagles (5-5)
Oh where oh where has Carson Wentz gone? After a red hot start to the season, the Eagles rookie and No. 2 overall pick has slowed down considerably. His latest disappointing effort came in an ugly loss against an elite Seahawks team that held Wentz to just 218 yards and two touchdowns, with two picks thrown in. His numbers would have been worse than that if not for some extra production late in the game. With the exception of maybe one or two games, Wentz has not played well since the Eagles’ 3-0 start and it’s no surprise the rest of the team is going down the tubes with him.
Philadelphia has lost five of its last seven games and will remain in the cellar of the NFC East for another week with both the Cowboys and Giants pulling away in the top two spots. Despite their issues, the Eagles are still well within striking distance of a playoff spot, but that won’t matter if things don’t get better in Philly. A Week 12 game against the Packers will be a must-win contest if the Eagles hope to stay in the hunt. Head coach Doug Pederson’s squad has three games remaining against divisional opponents, one of which will be against the Redskins, a team the Eagles are trailing for one of the two wild card spots.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5)
It wasn’t pretty but the Steelers escaped with a win in Week 11. The last thing Pittsburgh wanted was to be the first team to lose to the lowly Browns, however there was a chance for that to happen late in the fourth quarter with the Steelers clinging to an eight-point lead. Thankfully for the Steelers, Josh McCown acted like himself and turned the ball over for a game-clinching fumble recovery for touchdown. Windy conditions made things difficult for Big Ben and company, “forcing” the Steelers to go to their superstar running back Le’Veon Bell, who compiled 201 total yards of offense and scored once.
While you would have liked to see a more convincing win against the worst team in the league, the Steelers snapped their four-game losing streak and draw a juicy matchup in Week 12 versus a Colts defense that can be exploited to the fullest extent of the word. More importantly, the Steelers pulled even in terms of record with the Ravens atop the AFC North and can take sole possession of first place next week with a win and a Ravens loss. Sadly for the Steelers that scenario may not take place, as the Ravens will play a Bengals team that looks dead in the water.
14. Baltimore Ravens (5-5)
The Ravens don’t have much to hang their heads about after a Week 11 loss to the Cowboys, who retained the league’s best record with the victory. Baltimore found itself in a one-possession game with a little over eight minutes to play. The Cowboys then came down the field for a six minute, 28 second drive that led to a field goal to push the NFC East leader’s advantage to 10 points. The Ravens ultimately fell 27-17 in what was a tough loss to swallow given their opponent and how hard fought the game was.
As a Ravens fan you can certainly be upset about the loss, although there is something to be said about holding Ezekiel Elliot to 3.9 yards per carry and less than 100 yards on the ground. Clearly Baltimore is working with a talented defense that wasn’t at 100 percent on Sunday and there is room to improve upon this latest promising effort. The Ravens still own first place in the AFC North thanks to a win over the Steelers earlier in the season and draw a favorable matchup in Week 12 against a Bengals team that is in a free fall and will be without A.J. Green. After that the Ravens get the Dolphins in Week 13 before a tough three-game stretch against the Patriots, Eagles, and a big one against the Steelers that may decide what has become a two-team race for the division.
13. Miami Dolphins (6-4)
It tooks the Dolphins until the fourth quarter to finally get on the scoreboard, but it was just enough to emerge victorious over the Rams in Week 11. For awhile it looked like the Rams defense was going to get a shutout, however the Dolphins came alive with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, including one that came with 36 seconds left in regulation that proved to be the game winner for Miami. While quarterback Ryan Tannehill didn’t play well, he made the plays when it mattered most and was bailed out by his defense that kept the game close despite the team’s offensive ineptitude.
One of the hottest teams in the NFL right now, the Dolphins have won five straight games and have done a complete 180 since starting out 1-4. Tannehill is playing better football, the running game has life and this defense has played well enough to get wins. The Dolphins have the impossible task of chasing and surpassing the Patriots in the AFC East, making it more realistic to chase a wild card spot considering the Dolphins trail the Broncos by one game. Week 12 will present a welcomed matchup against the team with the second worst record in the league, the 49ers.
12. Minnesota Vikings (6-4)
Welcome back, Vikings. The four-game losing streak has been broken following a win over the Cardinals and now all is good again in Minnesota for the time being. Head coach Mike Zimmer finally saw his defense come to life with a 100-yard pick six, and Cordarrelle Patterson added to the extra offense for the Vikings with a 104-yard kickoff return for touchdown. Quarterback Sam Bradford game managed his way to a win as the Vikings offense continued to be almost non-existent.
The biggest issue the Vikings face moving forward is that offense. Bradford and the running game can’t get anything going this season, which is only exacerbated by a poor offensive line that badly needs some upgrades. Unless the Vikings can continue to win games with their defense and special teams, it’s going to be tough sledding for the rest of the season and Minny will have to scratch and claw its way into the playoffs. After 10 games apiece, the Lions and Vikings have the same record and are the top two squads in the NFC North, with the Lions owning an advantage after a 22-16 win over the Vikings in Week 9. That can change on Thanksgiving if the Vikings can beat the Lions, which would put Minnesota in sole possession of first place.
11. Detroit Lions (6-4)
A strong defensive effort from the Lions combined with a big special teams play led to Detroit’s sixth win of the season and its fifth in six games. Matthew Stafford was solid in the winning effort, throwing for 278 yards with donuts for both touchdowns and picks. The real difference in this game was a 55-yard punt return for touchdown by Andrew Roberts and a 39-yard pick six courtesy of Rafael Bush. Even with those two big plays, the Lions trailed by a field goal going into the fourth quarter, but Eric Ebron of all people notched himself a rushing touchdown to grab a lead the Lions would never relinquish.
You can count the number of people who thought the Lions would be in this position at this late stage in the season on one hand. The Lions are playing at a high level right now and are one of the hottest teams in the NFL. With the Packers and Vikings both struggling of late, the Lions have taken full advantage and look like the best team in the division in 2016. There is a lot riding on this Thursday’s game with the Vikings, as the winner will be in first place in the NFC North.
10. Washington Redskins (6-3-1)
What can you say about Kirk Cousins other than “YOU LIKE THAT!” The guy just wins games for the Redskins and he did so again in convincing fashion in Week 11 against the lifeless Packers. Cousins threw for 375 yards and three touchdowns, while also getting help from the running game with Rob Kelley adding 137 yards and three touchdowns in a breakout game. Aside from a few offensive outbursts, the Redskins held the Packers in check and were relentless in attacking Green Bay through the air. With the victory the Redskins are winners in six of their last eight games after an 0-2 start that had many people writing this team off.
Up next for the Redskins will be a Thanksgiving Day matchup with the NFC East leading Cowboys. This should be an interesting game to say the least considering the Redskins played the Cowboys tough the last time these two teams met. The Redskins go into Week 12 holding on to the last playoff spot, however teams like the Vikings, Bucs and Eagles are all breathing down their neck. Including the Cowboys this week, the Redkins have three more games against NFC East opponents and trail the Giants by just one game for second place in the division. Washington meets Big Blue in the final game of the season.
9. Houston Texans (6-3) (Play on Monday Night Football)
The Texans will be tasked with facing one of the best teams in the NFL in Week 11 in a game that will take place south of the border in Mexico City. The Texans have been good at stopping the pass this season and will need to continue that if they hope to beat the potent air attack of the Raiders. The biggest weakness the Texans have on defense is stopping the run. Houston can’t afford to get into a shootout with the way quarterback Brock Osweiler has played this season and it’s going to be vital for the defense to have the game of its season in order to stop a Raiders offense that ranked fifth in points per game coming into this Monday night matchup.
After Sunday’s action, the Texans will either be one or two games up on the Colts depending on the result of their 10th game of the season. That lead is made a bit more comfortable since the Texans have beaten both the Titans and Colts, the two teams chasing them for the division. After the Raiders, the Texans will have the Chargers and Packers before playing the Colts and Titans in two of their last four games of the season. As it stands now, the Texans control their own fate and the division is theirs for the taking if they can keep winning games.
8. Atlanta Falcons (6-4)
A bye week was a welcomed sight for a Falcons team that sits atop the division and in a playoff spot going into Week 12. It also gives running back Tevin Coleman a chance to get healthy and word is he plans on practicing this week, making him likely to play against the Cardinals. Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense will have three straight games against tough defenses, with the Chiefs and Rams on tap after Sunday’s meeting with Arizona.
These are three winnable games for Atlanta, but it’s going to take a better defensive effort than what head coach Dan Quinn has seen in recent weeks. The Falcons have allowed 28 points or more in three of the last four games and a 24-15 loss in Week 10 versus the Eagles proved the Falcons need their defense to step up even more in games where the offense may not score much.
That could be a common scenario for the next three weeks. Now, that’s not to say the Falcons offense doesn’t deserve some of the blame for the team’s last loss, however there isn’t much you can say bad about a unit that has carried the Falcons all season long – and more specifically, carried the Falcons to first place. All in all, the Falcons have a pretty favorable schedule down the stretch and remain a favorite to win the NFC South.
7. Kansas City Chiefs (7-3)
The Chiefs had their five-game winning streak snapped at the hands of the Buccaneers on Sunday and once again KC saw its offense sputter. The Chiefs totaled just 334 yards of offense, 261 of which came from the arm of quarterback Alex Smith. On defense, the Chiefs couldn’t get the Bucs off the field with Jameis Winston and company winning the time of possession battle by over 10 minutes. A touchdown with a little over two minutes left in regulation pulled the Chiefs to within two, however there simply wasn’t enough time to get into field goal range to win it on the team’s final possession.
Despite the loss, the Chiefs are in second place in the AFC West and share the same record with the Broncos ahead of the pair’s Week 12 showdown in the Mile High City. Regardless of what happens with the Raiders on Monday Night Football against the Texans, the Chiefs are still right there in the race for the division title. A loss for Oakland on Monday would again put the Chiefs in first place based on tiebreakers, and even a win would for Derek Carr and company would leave the Chiefs just one win and a Raiders loss away from sitting atop the division. While that’s all well and good, the Chiefs have major issues on offense and could struggle with four games left against their own division.
6. New York Giants (7-3)
The Giants almost fell victim to a trap game against the Bears on Sunday, but Eli Manning and company were able to overcome a seven-point deficit after the first half and held the Bears to zero points in the final two quarters. The Giants looked sluggish to start the game and couldn’t stop Jay Cutler and the Bears, whether it was on the ground or through the air. The second half was a different story as running back Jordan Howard was nowhere to be found and Cutler’s hot start quickly faded. Perhaps more importantly, the Giants actually found success running the ball with Rashad Jennings, who has been able to revive New York’s ground game in recent weeks.
With the win, the G-Men kept pace with the Cowboys and remain the only team who has beaten the best team in the NFL this season. While the Giants have an uphill climb to catch the Cowboys, it is still possible with the two teams set to meet again in Week 14. Division or not, the Giants are in great shape in the playoff hunt and are in line to get one of the two wild card spots after five wins in a row. This Sunday is a gift game for the Giants in Cleveland and should be another victory to add to their current winning streak.
5. Denver Broncos (7-3)
The Broncos have won three of their last four games and escaped with a victory against the Saints in Week 10 that was about as improbable a finish as you will ever see. A blocked extra point in the closing seconds of the game was taken to the house for two points, giving the Broncos a 25-23 win. Talk about a huge play, the Saints were just one kick away from upsetting a top-notch team in the NFL.
While the Broncos are still dominating opposing passing attacks to the tune of a top-ranked air defense, stopping the run remains a serious issue for head coach Gary Kubiak’s squad with the team ranking 28th against the run going into the Week 11 bye. Adding to Denver’s problems, the offense ranks in the bottom-10 of the league and has been particularly disappointing on the ground since Devontae Booker took over for an injured C.J. Anderson. And, if the Broncos hope to cover the tracks of Trevor Siemian’s poor play, the defense must step up even more than it already has in most games.
This week presents the most important game of the season thus far, with the Broncos playing host to the Chiefs in the Mile High City in a game that could determine first place. If Denver hopes to win this division, a win over the Chiefs is critical in the first of two meetings with its division rival in the next five weeks.
4. Oakland Raiders (7-2) (Play on Monday Night Football)
A battle between two solid AFC teams will take place on Monday Night Football in Mexico City when the Raiders take on the Texans. Oakland is coming off a bye week and a Week 9 win over the Broncos. Head coach Jack Del Rio’s team has won three games in a row and six of its last seven. The key for the Raiders will be moving the ball on the ground, as the Texans are weakest against the run and have been solid against the pass. Look for Latavius Murray and the rest of the Oakland running backs to get a heavy workload in this one and their success will be the difference between a Raiders win or loss.
With a Chiefs loss on Sunday, the Raiders have a temporary lead in first place in the AFC West, but that will end rather quickly if they lose on Monday night. Being that the Chiefs own the tiebreaker, the Raiders must keep a better record than Kansas City in order to stay in first place until Oakland can rectify the situation in Week 14. Aside from a meeting with the Chiefs, the Raiders have two more games against division opponents, one against the Chargers in Week 15 and the other against the Broncos in Week 17. It looks like the race for the AFC West is going to be a close one until the very end, but the Raiders have the advantage as easily the best all-around team in the division.
3. New England Patriots (8-2)
The Patriots went ahead and took care of business in a game they were supposed to win over the lowly 49ers. While San Fran kept it close for three quarters, the Patriots scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to pull away for the win a week after suffering a tough loss to the Seahawks. Running back LeGarrette Blount dominated to the tune of 124 yards on the ground and Tom Brady showed his normal brilliance with 280 yards and four touchdowns in the winning effort. In his first game back, Dion Lewis touched the ball eight times and it looks like he’ll be involved moving forward. The Pats defense had a strong effort after a lackluster first half and sacked Colin Kaepernick five times and forced five fumbles in total, none of which were recovered.
New England continues to hold a safe lead over the Dolphins, who came back to win over the Rams in Week 11. Even with that being the case, the Patriots are far and away the best team in the AFC East and should have no problem wining the division and coming away with a first-round bye in the playoffs. The Pats have a pretty cushy schedule the rest of the way, with two games against the Jets, one against the Dolphins and one against the Rams in the final six weeks. The other two games are against the Ravens and Broncos. It’s quite feasible that the Pats run the table and take home field advantage through the AFC playoffs..
2. Seattle Seahawks (7-2-1)
The Seahawks didn’t face much of a challenge from the Eagles in their Week 11 victory. Quarterback Carson Wentz was completely shut down by Seattle’s secondary and it forced the rookie signal-caller to throw two interceptions. Both Russell Wilson and C.J. Prosise once again led the team’s offense to a 23-point afternoon against a tough Eagles defense, and Wilson even added a score with a 15-yard touchdown reception. Wilson, who also threw for 255 yards and a score, is once again getting hot at the right time and has the Seahawks looking unbeatable. The bad news coming out of this game is that Prosise injured his shoulder and is expected to miss an extended period of time.
Seattle’s lead in the NFC West is a comfortable one, and that’s especially true given the fact that the Cardinals and Rams both lost on Sunday. Even if both had won, there is no question the Seahawks are the class of the division and are in great shape to take it. With one of the easiest schedules to close out the season, the Seahawks will play their last six games against teams with a record of .500 or worse and are poised to not only take the division, but are also on track to finish with one of the two best records in the NFC. Considering the Seahawks’ legendary home field advantage, that’s an important thing to accomplish before season’s end.
1. Dallas Cowboys (9-1)
The Cowboys faced one of their toughest challenges of the season thus far against the Ravens. While nobody has been able to slow down Ezekiel Elliot, the Ravens were successful in doing so having stopped the rookie back from reaching the century mark in rushing yards. Despite that, the Cowboys notched their ninth consecutive victory on the strength of Dak Prescott’s 301 yards and three touchdowns. Clearly the rookie is unflappable, especially after being named the permanent starter now that Tony Romo is back and healthy.
It seems the Cowboys can do no wrong at this point. Dallas is the best team in the NFL this season and are winning games even when things aren’t clicking on all cylinders. While head coach Jason Garrett’s team has a comfortable place in the playoff hunt and a two-game lead in the NFC East, Dallas still has to deal with the Giants not going away and already being responsible for the Cowboys’ only loss this season. A divisional matchup with the Redskins on Thanksgiving is on tap for the Cowboys this week and a second meeting with the Giants will take place in Week 14 that could decide the division.
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