A common query around the NFL Media office today: "Can you believe it's Week 11 already?"
Yes, yes I can. I'm tired. The 32 teams are playing like 32 individual operations that can respond in 32 different ways to a matchup, making the NFL Power Rankings as challenging as ever.
Take the Steelers for example. They blew out the Colts. They blew out the Ravens, too, putting up 43 points on one of the best defenses in the league. Then Pittsburgh encounters the Jets' shoddy secondary ... and drops a big, fat egg -- painted on only one side, of course. Which leads me to ask: Do Steelers fans only paint one side of the egg on Easter? I digress.
Well let me say this, Gene: At least your Titans are consistent. P.S. Does anyone call you "Mean"?
Alright, enough shenanigans -- let's get on to the rankings. Remember, head-to-head results aren't the be-all, end-all at this point in the season, with so many games to consider for each team. And we try not to move teams that just had the week off. These stipulations can make the Power Rankings task a bit more difficult, you see. And we'd like to see your take on the NFL hierarchy, too: @HarrisonNFL is the place.
Let the dissension commence!
(Note: Arrows reflect change in standings from the most recent Power Rankings.)
The Patriots, who had the week off, retain their top spot. The No. 2 team won, but suffered a substantial injury (again). The No. 3 team won, but against an unsubstantial team. Thus, New England holds the catbird seat.
Broncos fans: Were you worried after Justin Tuck batted that ball in the air and caught it? Were you more frightened than Jamie Lee Curtis clutching a wire hangar in a closet when the Raiders were up four in the second quarter? Maybe not. Thirty-five unanswered points later, crisis averted. Helluva effort, C.J.
As sportswriters, we are not supposed to root for these kinds of things ... but everyone I spoke with at the NFL offices in L.A. was happy for Mark Sanchez on Monday night. Let's just say that 20 of 37 for 332 yards and two touchdowns was better than anyone would have expected out of him at this time last year, the year before or the year before that.
To be real here, a great game from a quarterback these days is typically of the 450-yard, five-touchdown variety ... or Russell Wilson rushing for 100 yards. Not for Tony Romo, who is leading a conservative offense that only asks that he make big plays when needed. Playing injured -- not playing hurt -- the Dallas quarterback completed over 70 percent of his passes Sunday with three scores and no turnovers. That's all you need, folks.
Tweeted this on Sunday, and I'll say it again: Marshawn Lynch is the most entertaining power back to watch since Earl Campbell. When his touchdown plunge put Seattle up 24-17 in the fourth quarter, you could just feel the crowd get energized. Not sure there is another running back like him in the game today. His lateral moves are awesome for a guy who runs with such brute force.
Give Detroit a ton of credit. Jim Caldwell's group has been able to pull out a lot of tight games this season. And it starts with the run defense, which made the Dolphins look like a bunch of girlie men. How about Golden Tate, who produced another 100-yard game, even with Calvin Johnson back in the fold? Most league observers thought 70 catches would be the ceiling for Golden Tate this year. He'll pass that this week.
Sunday night's 55-14 drubbing of the Bears sure reminded me of a couple games in Packers history ... Will it be the coach-killer for Marc Trestman, like when the Pack sacked Dallas 45-7 in 2010, ousting Wade Phillips from his head-coaching gig? And the 42-zip first half brought to mind the first blowout your friendly Power Rankings hack ever saw, when the Lynn Dickey/James Lofton/John Jefferson Packers spanked Tampa Bay 49-7 in the first half at Lambeau back in 1983. Green Bay prevailed in that game by the final score of, you guessed it, 55-14. The Packers built such a huge lead that Dickey only attempted 15 passes all day. Of course, Aaron Rodgers was brilliant Sunday night, tossing a record-tying six touchdown passes in one half. Rodgers in 2014, Dickey in 1983 ... ahhh, nothing like remembering non-competitive football games from yesteryear.
What a huge win in the grand scheme of things for Andy Reid and the Chiefs. Once again, Kansas City is chasing Denver in the AFC West, but K.C. is now in the driver's seat for the top wild-card spot -- just like last November. And just like last season, the Chiefs will play the Chargers in Week 17. Before that, Kansas City has winnable games versus the Raiders (home and away), as well as road contests against the Carson Palmer-less Cardinals and the who-knows-what-team-you'll-get Steelers. Considering at least one AFC wild-card team will have nine wins -- or so it seems -- this group should be playing January football.
Massive win for the Cleveland Browns last Thursday, not only because it was the first divisional road win since 2008, but also because of the outstanding effort displayed on the defensive side of the ball. Defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil had to be as giddy as a kid getting his first G.I. Joe with swivel-arm battle grip. Speaking of, Cleveland has a tremendous opportunity to strengthen its grip on the AFC North with the Texans rolling into town, new quarterback included.
A dud delivered by the hottest team of the prior two weeks. What else can you say? Nothing clicked at the right time for the Steelers in New Jersey. Pittsburgh fans should not panic, however, as sometimes these kinds of games just happen -- guys run the wrong routes, the QB is slightly off and 10 guys on defense play well -- but the one who doesn't gets targeted by the opposing quarterback. How else do you explain Michael Vick posting a passer rating well north of 100? Still think the Steelers will win the AFC North.
How Colin Kaepernick completed that fourth-and-10 bomb to Michael Crabtree is beyond me, considering the duress he was under. "Duress" is all Niners rookie Chris Borland has been causing opponents of late, adding 17 tackles and one darn-important fumble recovery to his already growing legend. No small development, as news broke Tuesday that Patrick Willis is hitting season-ending IR.
You want answers? You want answers?! Well, we don't have any. Andy Dalton spit the bit last Thursday Night, posting a 2.0 passer rating that still might not be completely reflective of how ugly his performance was. The season isn't getting easier, either: Cincy kicks off a three-game road trip this Sunday in New Orleans. Good luck.
The Ravens went out and did precisely what we figured they'd do, completely handling the hapless Titans at home and making the AFC North an absolute mess. Can't anyone stay bad anymore? The Ravens were unimpressive in Cincinnati and downright lousy in Pittsburgh, yet here they are, right in the thick of the division race.
Miami faced a difficult road assignment in Week 10, traveling north to face the best defense in the league (fresh off a bye) with their top running back clearly not himself. If Knowshon Moreno and Lamar Miller were healthy, this club would flat out be better. Because no matter how much we will it to be true, Ryan Tannehill has not developed into the kind of quarterback who can take these games over. While we're here, though: Brent Grimes, you are unbelievable.
It was an off week in San Diego, and quite frankly, this team needed some time to regroup. Defensive coordinator John Pagano must have had his hands full trying to straighten out the secondary, which has been nothing short of awful lately. Then again, nothing in this broad, vast universe of ours spells relief quite like a home game against the Raiders. (Think that's the point of McConaughey's new flick.)
Tough one for the Bills, who, despite pulling out so many close contests this season, were not able to close the door on the Chiefs on Sunday. Buffalo beat the Bears, Lions and Vikings in tight ballgames, making clutch plays at the end and energizing Bills Mafia members -- all over the country and on my Twitter wall ( @HarrisonNFL). So, I ask those folks now: What happened Sunday, and does the team have a legit shot at January football?
Still shocked that Drew Brees did not sense that backside pressure from Ahmad Brooks on Sunday's penultimate play. In fact, the future Hall of Fame quarterback originally stepped up because he felt Brooks' pass rush. Still, what a game the 49ers and Saints delivered. It's a shame someone had to lose. What is not a shame is how Mark Ingram keeps proving people wrong.
Week 10 was a bye in Houston, providing wonderful opportunities for ...
a) Jadeveon Clowney to get up to speed.
b) Arian Foster to get healthy.
c) Ryan Mallet to figure out what he is doing.
d) Fans to drive out to where Gilley's used to be. (Rent "Urban Cowboy.")
e) Coaches to fully prepare for Cleveland, and perhaps, stay in the AFC playoff race.
Yet another bye-week team in the Vikings, who might be developing the most inexperienced backfield in the league. Teddy Bridgewater is a rookie, obviously. Ditto Jerick McKinnon. And Matt Asiata had all of 47 career rushing attempts coming into this season. While being cognizant that youknowwho could potentially come back, it's OK to be pleased with the guys the organization is breaking in. Just a thought.
The Giants came out strong in Seattle ... then what happened? The fourth quarter got away from the team, as if Seattle's 350 rushing yards aren't, uh, indicative of that. Drugstore analysis: The defense simply doesn't have the horses up front. Going to the other side of the ball. ... Maybe it's just me, but Odell Beckham Jr. looks like a better athlete than everyone else.
Kenny Britt simply has to catch that ball in the fourth quarter. Trailing 17-14, Austin Davis threw a ball that was slightly off -- as in, Britt had to raise his hands a foot to catch the ball. Instead, the ball hit the receiver's "soft" hands, caroming off like a rubber ball bouncing around a high school ceramics class, and falling right into the waiting arms of Patrick Peterson. Everything went downhill from there. Forget the score. St. Louis was winning in the fourth quarter and could have stolen another division game on the road. #sweatthesmallstuff
If I were a Panthers fan, I would be ticked off that either a) Cam was playing hurt and the entire coaching staff is in full denial, or b) the "franchise" quarterback looked completely disinterested. Heard SiriusXM's Ross Tucker talking about how the rest of the team often follows the quarterback's body language. Agreed. Please don't blame this one on the offensive line, either.
Washington was off, yet that didn't stop me from thinking about
Jay Gruden's brief tenure. Who knows if the
Redskins have improved from last season. That said, fans were hoping Gruden could help develop
Robert Griffin III's game -- especially with the offseason additions of
DeSean Jackson and
Andre Roberts, and the healthy return of promising young tight end
Jordan Reed. That proverbial step forward hasn't happened.
RGIII looks like he did in 2013, and nothing like that brilliant rookie edition. On the other hand, look how far
Andy Dalton has plummeted
without his former OC. #byeweekthoughts
Given that it is Veterans Day, it seems appropriate that we include this note in the D.C. blurb ... I'm a big believer in donating to charities that help veterans. Not all charities are created equal, but if this is something that's important to you, might I recommend FisherHouse.org, which provides comfortable housing where families can stay -- at no cost -- while veterans are receiving medical treatment.
I began typing this blurb at 6:22 p.m. PT on Sunday. Taping the "Grades" segments for NFL NOW, I hadn't watched more than two downs -- and saw pretty much all I needed to see. Don't worry, though: The game was 21-0 and the Packers were on the move. I decided to watch -- and fully concentrate -- on the next play, just in time to see the Bears decide to let No. 87 in green backpedal toe-tap in their end zone. Three plays: All I needed to see.
That was one beautiful deep ball, Michael Vick. If you haven't seen the T.J. Graham touchdown, take a look here. You're welcome. Vick wasn't asked to do that much versus Pittsburgh, but he made the plays when the Jets needed them. And how about that much-maligned secondary? What a performance from that group. #ganggreen
Another Sunday, another frustrating loss for Titans fans. The offense averaged all of 3.9 yards per play. Yes, that includes passing plays. Most teams average more than that running the football alone. At least the tweets I get from Titans faithful are winners. (See: the tweet in this file's intro.)
Another loss for Lovie Smith's group, and the nightmare 2014 campaign continues. Three turnovers in the other team's territory will deep-six your chances in the NFL every time. The Bucs also need more than 53 yards rushing from the "running" backs.
The Jags are consistent. They lose, domestically and internationally, with aplomb. Once again, the run defense struggled. The pass rush was not able to mitigate that deficiency by getting to the quarterback, either. Hey, they can't lose in Week 11!
Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.