Week 12 NFL Power Rankings are in, as is one mid-November ballot for the MVP ...
That debate will be heating up soon, so we thought we would get a jump-start on it before Thanksgiving. And while the Patriots are our certifiable No. 1 for the third week in a row, would you hand Tom Brady his third MVP trophy?
Here's how I see the candidates stacking up for the league's most prestigious award:
3) Run me until my wheels fall off.
2) No, my career is not winding down -- tell that rookie to sit tight.
On to other battles ... mostly in Missouri.
Is "Chiefs Kingdom" a thing? I've always hated the tag "Red Sox Nation." Then again, us Texas Rangers fans don't really have a thing. #NoWorldSeriesRings #CatchTheBallNelsonCruz
Don't ever say the Power Rankings ignores its female fans. #ShirtlessTweetsByAleks
Interesting way to state Kansas City's case: by citing the team's worst game. But I can't disagree.
Let the dissension commence!
(Note: Arrows reflect change in standings from the most recent Power Rankings.)
New England certainly made its case for being the top dog on this chart of greatness. How about that
Jonas Gray? Who expected that? No one -- save for his Uncle Poindexter, who started him on his fantasy team.
Just two other players in Patriots history have rushed for more than Gray's 201 yards in a single game: Jim Nance, who had 208 yards in 1966 for the team then known as the Boston
Patriots, and Tony Collins, who ran for 212 in 1983.
Power Rankings side note: When I first got the notification that Collins (@tonycollinsbwyb) was following me on Twitter, my initial thought was, "Does anybody remember what a good little all-around back he was?" One thing Collins could do well was catch the ball (77 receptions in 1986). It remains to be seen if Gray can be that kind of player; but then, with Shane Vereen (35 catches for 305 yards and three scores this season) also in the backfield, he might not have to be. ...
The loss in St. Louis was pretty significant, and not merely because of the injuries. The Broncos have now lost three games on the season, same as the Chiefs. Those two teams will meet at Arrowhead in Week 13 for a game that looms very large with regard to both the AFC West race and the AFC wild-card hunt. I still think Kansas City ends up as the fifth seed.
A bye week for Dallas brought plenty of talk about the contract situation of Dez Bryant, who is in the final year of his rookie deal. More interesting to me is the affordable pact the Cowboys made with Henry Melton this past spring. If you add sacks, quarterback hits, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries, interceptions and tackles for loss together and divide that total -- which can basically be labled "disruptive plays" -- by the total number of plays, Melton was the seventh-most-impactful defensive player in the NFL heading into Week 11, one spot above slightly-less-affordable former Cowboy DeMarcus Ware.
Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis might want to throw out the game tape from
Sunday's swamping by the Packers. Why ruin his players' confidence heading into the stretch run? Even when the members of Philly's D played their assignments correctly,
Aaron Rodgers busted the containment for a few big runs. At least the secondary made up for it by not tackling
Sure, much will be made of Mark Sanchez's play, but I saw a quarterback pressing to keep his team in a game with an opposing offense that couldn't be stopped.
Lions fans were undoubtedly anticipating a freefall, because they think I hate their team. Truth is, I feel Detroit is a strong candidate for the fifth or sixth seed in the NFC, and the Lions don't deserve to drop at all, as they fought hard on the road against one of the best teams in the NFL. What does deserve the equivalent of a 31-spot plummet is the decision to not use Joique Bell on third-and-1 or fourth-and-short late in the second half of the loss to the Cardinals. Bell was in the midst of his first productive performance in a month, and Jim Caldwell and his staff made the bruising back a bystander on the two critical downs of the game. If I were a fan in Detroit -- or one of the many Lions fans I know in Los Angeles (@TurkNorton, @ShawntKidd) -- I wouldn't have been happy with some of the officiating, either.
If the Colts are to do anything come January, they have to come up with some stops. The run defense was an abomination in Sunday's loss to the Patriots, and Andrew Luck can't be expected to put up 30 points every game. He's not Reggie Miller circa 1995, for crying out loud. Anyway, at this juncture, the defense merely needs to be Chuck Person or Rik Smits ... keep Indy from getting into track meets.
Say what you want about Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch, but we just saw how relevant defensive tackle Brandon Mebane -- lost for the season in Week 10 -- is in terms of team MVP conversation. Well, that is if you consider keeping opponents from racking up nearly two bills on the ground to be valuable.
It's not often that the team with the plus-four turnover differential in the game has to hang tough until the end. What a strange deal that was at the New Meadowlands on Sunday. While it was great for the Niners to have pass rusher Aldon Smith back from his nine-game suspension, we can't forget about rookie LB Chris Borland, who continues to make plays. How does 13 total tackles, three passes defensed and two interceptions -- in one afternoon -- sound? He's better than Charles Haley in Tecmo Super Bowl.
The Bills were in control of Thursday's contest for more than a half. But we all got a lesson in how important red-zone defense -- or simply bending without breaking -- can be. Buffalo was forced to settle for Dan Carpenter field goals time and again, while Miami scored a couple of touchdowns in the second half and ultimately pulled away. Ryan Tannehill shook off some sacks and an ill-timed fumble to post a decent game, as well. All that being what it is, it's difficult to not be impressed with Lamar Miller, who was quietly effective again with 98 yards from scrimmage.
The Ravens' bye week came in time for them to gear up for the stretch run. Next up: a Monday night date with the Saints, and the challenge of stopping both Drew Brees and a pretty consistent Mark Ingram-led running game. Baltimore's defense has been solid all season; the goal now is to stay within striking distance in the AFC North. The Ravens host the Browns in Week 17.
That was a big win in Cleveland, although with the Rams upsetting the Broncos and Aaron Rodgers throwing for 7,000 yards against the Eagles, Houston's clutch performance flew somewhat under the radar. At 5-5, Bill O'Brien's outfit is still in this postseason do-si-do. If Bruce Arians' Cardinals weren't doing as well as they are, methinks O'Brien would be the subject of some Coach of the Year talk.
Thought Malcom Floyd would come up big Sunday -- call it a football hunch, which is maybe kind of like football intelligence (FBI). Speaking of the FBI, we could use that agency to find the Chargers' missing offense. After scoring 27.3 points per game over the first six weeks, the Bolts have averaged just 13.5 points over the past four games, including Week 9's shutout loss in Miami. And San Diego is averaging just 248.7 yards per game during that 1-3 stretch.
I love Brian Hoyer, but 20-for-50 is thisclose to awful. Of course, you gotta have help from the ground game -- Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West (3.8 yards per carry combined) weren't exactly Mack and Byner out there in the loss to Houston. At least Ben Tate (who was waived Tuesday) made up for it with negative-9 yards rushing.
A lot of big plays were left out on the field in Miami, and you better believe the Bills know it. Dropped interceptions, missed receivers and a couple of close calls that went the Dolphins' way come to mind. We recommended that Bills fans hit up Lasertron a couple of weeks ago, but after Thursday's loss, I would advise grabbing a refreshment at Ulrich's Tavern. That place was around 100 years before fans were getting depressed about the "same old Bills."
Last Wednesday night,
I asked the Twitterverse if anyone thought St. Louis could upend the
Broncos. Not a single person said they thought it would happen. #Fail -- but in a good way.
A big part of the most significant win of Week 11 has to do with a football oddity the 2014 Rams recently discovered -- I believe it's known in some circles as a "pass rush." Word is, it takes place when one of your guys tackles or hurries the other guys' quarterback, sometimes with the ball still in his hand.
So 4-6 is the new 10-0. Or something like that. You have to hand it to
Mike Smith, who has kept his team focused after what could have been
a devastating loss in London in Week 8. There were some -- and I'm not exaggerating here -- who thought Smith would get fired on the plane ride back. Maybe Smith kept walking the aisles, so that general manager Thomas Dimitroff couldn't do it (and, of course, because it's a good way to prevent varicose veins). Maybe Dimitroff was slinking down in his seat and hoping owner Arthur Blank didn't see him for a similar reason.
Hey, you're in first place in the NFC South, guys. Not bad.
A real dud by the Saints there. Maybe defensive coordinator Rob Ryan should just forget about this one. How did New Orleans blow out the Packers -- who are currently Lambeau-leaping their way to 40-point wins -- and then get smacked by a Bengals team that had just allowed three average Browns running backs to score like it was nothing in Week 10? The NFL is so weird these days.
Nice to see the
Bears get it together and
win in front of the home folk. Unfortunately for them, at 4-6, they still have almost no shot at making any kind of playoff run.
I feel OK about typing this kind of blurb for fans in Chicago. After all, they've had Jay Cutler as their quarterback for more than five years. They're used to living with depression.
Thought the Vikings had a shot to pick up another victory Sunday, even though I predicted Chicago would win at home. Yet, despite facing a terribly ineffective Bears defense, Minnesota's passing game didn't get one play of 25-plus yards, and the Jerick McKinnon- Matt Asiata combo platter carried the ball all of nine times. Bear in mind the fact that this was a one-score game.
Eli Manning hasn't been turning the ball over this season."
-- Me, on SiriusXM Radio's "Football Diehards" Sunday morning.
How New York stayed in that six-point loss to the Niners despite Manning tossing five picks is anyone's guess, but you have to give the Giants' defense a lot of credit for holding the fort when the offense kept giving it back.
Josh McCown props ... a
Buc-ket load of props. After all, he was a guy whose career in Tampa darn
-neer went up in flames before it ever got going.
OK, we'll stop with the puns -- and no more pirating sports cliches, either. I would say a 137.5 passer rating for a player many fans had written off is worth the focus of a blurb. That fourth-quarter bomb to Mike Evans to seal the deal against the Redskins was a beaut.
Too bad the Jets weren't playing last week, considering they were fresh off their biggest win of the season. They can't even get the timing of their bye week right. Next up: the reeling Bills, who've gone from being wild-card hopefuls to standing at the back of the AFC playoff pack thanks to two straight losses. However, Michael Vick's presence means Geno Smith won't be going a Herculean 2-for-8 with three interceptions, like he did the last time these two teams met. Hey, you don't want to mess with a guy's legacy.
Evidently, Josh McCown is the second coming of Sammy Baugh, Sonny Jurgensen and Doug Williams in the Super Bowl ... at least, the mighty-friendly Redskins secondary made him look that way. Meanwhile, Robert Griffin III continues to be just good enough to get Washington beat. Not losing faith, though.
We can talk Zach Mettenberger all day long, but it sure would be nice to see Bishop Sankey rev it up down the stretch. The Monday night coverage made it sound like he was the lovechild of Earl Campbell and Eddie George -- can't say 11 carries for 38 yards really did it for me. That rookie quarterback could have used more third-and-shorts late.
Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.