The NFL's wildest week yet -- at least in terms of who beat who -- closed last night in Cincinnati with yet another upset. Week 11 Power Rankings reflect the wacky nature of the league these days, with nearly every team besides the top-ranked Patriots shifting around.
Those suspenders do look pretty tight, Sam.
Yep, the Cowboys plummeted, Chris -- but not that far. They keep losing in the final moments, and they're getting back the man who posted the best passer rating in the NFL in 2014.
For analysis on every team, take a look below. As always, feel free to share your take ... @HarrisonNFL is the place.
NOTE: The lineup below reflects changes from our Nov. 10 Power Rankings.
Tom Brady didn't look Canton-bound Sunday. All the more reason to crown him MVP -- even on an off day, he hunted and pecked his way to Pats 9, NFL 0. Spoke with a colleague who has watched the Patriots closely over the Bill Belichick era. His takeaway: The offense looks so different sans Julian Edelman. The injured receiver's ability to get separation is vastly underrated. While Brady and Belichick have been known to make players like Edelman or Dion Lewis (or even Troy Brown) better, you can't coach shiftiness.
Another win that felt far from pretty. But who cares? Carolina is streaking toward home-field advantage, with contributions coming from every corner.
Jonathan Stewart = superb.
Kurt Coleman made plays.
Ted Ginn Jr. was effective (though a house call was called back) in the return game. Overall, the special teams unit (especially punter
Brad Nortman) did its job.
Greg Olsen was out there doing his
Greg Olsen thing.
That's the point with these dudes. The Panthers are a team of contributors, kind of like Bill Belichick's first Super Bowl team, the 2001 Patriots. And if they keep going like this, the Packers or Cardinals or whoever will be playing in mid-January for the NFC title in damp, swampy Charlotte. (Well, at least for last season's Cardinals playoff game. Don't argue.)
Hey, there's no shame in losing your perfect season to
T.J. Yates and the
What an ugly loss. Tyler Eifert's Barry Bonds elbow armor finally stopped him from catching perfectly thrown balls. Did A.J. Green look like he was jogging on a route that was broken up on that last drive? Or show any sense of urgency to recover his fumble at the end? Upon further review, maybe he just couldn't locate the ball. Thoughts, Who Dey Nation? (@HarrisonNFL) Overall, the offense appeared to disappear. Just a grotesque first blemish -- on the national stage, to boot.
Don't think too many fans should take issue with the Cardinals' jump up the ranks here. Every time I watch Carson Palmer set up in the pocket, deliver that intermediate throw on time and on target with that compact motion of his, I see Troy Aikman. They have the same build, generally don't get too up or too down (minus Palmer's brief moment of Stantonism on the sideline in Seattle) and stand tall in the pocket. What's interesting to note is that Aikman retired prior to Year 13. This is Year 13 for Palmer. #UCLA #USC
The Vikings' triumph in the East Bay went largely unnoticed around the country, what with the Patriots facing their nemeses of recent vintage and Peyton Manning assailing two records (most passing yards ever and most bad interceptions in a half). Meanwhile, Adrian Peterson put up two bills on a feisty Raider team that has its own designs on the postseason. Say what you want about Teddy B, this win came courtesy of the D, specifically big plays from Terence Newman. #T-New #he's50 #he'sactually37
"What the hell's going on out here? ... Grab, grab, grab; nobody tackling!" Seeing these Packers might make Vince Lombardi yell that, along with, "Drop, drop, drop; nobody catching!" (Or Joe Lombardi could simply yell it from his living room.) Before we answer the question of what's ailing Green Bay, let's be careful to point the finger everywhere but at the quarterback. Aaron Rodgers had plenty of time on several of those errant throws Sunday. Question, Packer fans: How long does recently installed play caller Tom Clements continue calling the plays? (@HarrisonNFL)
Another huge day from Antonio Brown, who is clearly so bored from burning every DB in the league that he has to flip into the end zone to keep his job interesting. So what are we thinking? The Steelers and Bills as the AFC's wild-card teams? (@HarrisonNFL) From a developmental standpoint, how about having a battle-tested Landry Jones at the ready should Ben Roethlisberger find his way to the trainer's table again? I know he's hurt right now, but just thinking long-term, folks. (Although I should note that my fantasy team has already started Kirk Cousins twice in Roethlisberger's place, meeting the Kirk Cousins spot-start quota.)
In over three decades of watching pro football, not sure I've ever seen a player break a major NFL record and get benched in the same game, as Peyton Manning did Sunday. Can you imagine Walter Payton breaking Jim Brown's rushing record and then being told to ride the pine? Denver was shredded on a day when the defense was without injured pass rusher DeMarcus Ware and suspended cornerback Aqib Talib, and the offense looked awfully old.
Bye week for the Falcons, who have hardly been soaring ... rising up ... whatever. It's been a bad month of football for Dan Quinn's team, which barely beat the Redskins and Titans and was handled by the Saints. Oh, and did we mention the home loss to the Bucs? At least in Week 9, Atlanta was taken down by a Hall of Fame quarterback ... but enough about Blaine Gabbert! The only reason the Falcons are where they are is because of the middling play below them.
The Giants looked like Belichick Bashers for much of Sunday afternoon, even playing like a complete football team -- well, at least for an NFC East team. Call that division the greatest soap opera in football, minus a real leading man -- nope, not even the Maximus-bearded Kirk Cousins or the slick Mark Sanchez qualifies. The closest thing to the most important player in the NFC East -- other than a certain Dallas QB who's been sidelined since Week 2 -- is Eli Manning. It's getting dangerously close to Coughlin Time: when Big Blue ekes out the division title in December before making their "presidential" (that is, once every four years) Super Bowl appearance, while their coach's face turns all Rudolph-like.
Huge win for Rex Ryan and company -- although it clearly wasn't that important to Rex. Now that we've all had five days to digest the game, how did we feel about the Christmas uni matchup? Is "Elf" a top-five Christmas movie? Is it better than "Bad Santa"? Kudos to Tyrod Taylor for not being Bad Tyrod, even though his numbers weren't great. The bottom line is, he doesn't make very many negative plays. The better this defense plays, the more relevant Taylor's measured approach becomes.
Compared to the last decade or so, the 2015 season has been much more fun, due to the Raiders not stinking up the joint. The NFL is better when Oakland is relevant. But this club isn't good enough yet to show up with its C game at home and expect to win. Derek Carr was out of sorts against the Vikings. The run defense was out of position. And, for now, the Raiders are out of the AFC wild-card mix. Much football is left to be played, but letting Adrian Peterson run up and down the field -- and letting Terence Newman run routes better than your receivers -- won't get it done.
Much criticism directed Todd Bowles' way regarding the fourth-down decisions. I thought they were OK, given the way the defense was playing. And for those critiquing the play-calling on fourth-and-2 early in the fourth quarter, try to remember that offensive coordinator Chan Gailey called that play. Or Ryan Fitzpatrick might have changed it -- but I don't think so. Also try to remember that the Jets were without regular kicker Nick Folk. That is all.
"Wait ... they won?!"
-- A half-million Dolphin fans ... and maybe a pod or two of actual dolphins.
That Jarvis Landry touchdown, coming when it did, in a game won by one point, was a gift from the Marks Brothers -- er, the Marx Brothers? Heckuva deal for Texan Dan Campbell, who's gone from bodybuilder to savior to It was fun while it lasted, man to leading a team that is suddenly in the thick of the wild-card race. Thank you, Bills and Vikings.
Jets fans must have nodded in painful recognition watching Eagles fans pin their red-zone hopes on The Sanchize. Down one point, with the game on the line late in the fourth quarter -- and with his team already in field-goal range -- Sanchez threw high and late over the middle on a pass intended for Miles Austin. Pick; Dolphins football. Luckily, everyone in the NFC East but the Redskins lost, so Philadelphia didn't lose ground. Will 7-9 win that division? (@HarrisonNFL)
Still seeing miscommunication in the secondary. Still seeing drops from Jimmy Graham. Still seeing an offensive line that blocks about as well as Martin Gramatica on that Tony Romo-botched snap in Seattle nine years ago. An NFC wild-card berth is still within reach, but only because the East is paltry at best, while the Packers and Falcons have been slumping.
Kirk Cousins, take a bow, my man. Four TDs and a perfect passer rating? Yeah, we like that. The Redskins benefited from Sunday in more ways than one, with every other team in the NFC East faltering. So here is Washington at 4-5, only a half-game back of the Giants in the standings, with a chance to win the NFC East in 2015. Un ... real.
Big win for the Buccaneers, who are more than relevant in the wild-card race. The defense tightened the noose when it had to, particularly with Bradley McDougald's interception to seal the deal. Of course, the highlight shows lauded Jameis Winston for the "comeback win," ignoring the fact that Winston almost fumbled the game away and was off on many throws. Game ball? The entire Bucs defense, which held a desperate Cowboys team to 216 yards and six points.
Keep losing, Packers. Keep not paying attention to the Bears, America. Chicago balled out in St. Louis on Sunday, with its oft-maligned QB posting a 151.0 passer rating. Jeremy Langford caught seven of Jay Cutler's tosses for a staggering (at least for an RB, anyway) 109 yards. Meanwhile, the best defensive line in football only sacked Cutler twice, while allowing the Bears' ground attack 153 yards. So keep talking about the Packers and Vikings, but John Fox's outfit is coming.
The defense couldn't stop a leaky faucet, and five minutes after reading the headline, "Sean Payton says Rob Ryan 'absolutely' still his DC," the latter got canned. Saints fans are probably not surprised, while .38 Special might call Ryan's agent to see about his majestically maned client playing bass. New Orleans is quickly becoming one of those teams where fantasy heads know all the players, but nobody knows which Sean Payton outfit is going to show up. Not sure Rickey Jackson and Pat Swilling could show up and push this group to a wild card. #domepatrol
It was a bye week in Indy -- wonderful for the overall health of guys like T.Y. Hilton and all the veterans on the roster. What's not so kittens and rainbows is that this Colts team was coming off its biggest win of the season. Sometimes, when everyone's playing well, players and coaches don't want the bye. That said, good health is ... good.
Around the time Charcandrick West was scampering 80 yards down the field, speculation started on whether or not the Chiefs have enough firepower to catch the Steelers, Bills and Jets in the wild-card race. If the back seven plays the way it did in Denver, why not? Corners Marcus Peters and Sean Smith had Broncos wideouts on lockdown, while the pass rush added five more sacks, giving Kansas City 11 over the last two games. Speaking of 11, No. 11 has rushed 11 times for 111 yards during that fortnight. Deride him with "game manager" retorts, but Alex Smith has always been effective when he uses his legs.
Let any team in the NFL hang around long enough, and you'll get beat. The Texans hung tight in a 6-3 game, with blanket coverage and coaching ultimately making the difference in a matchup between teams with strikingly different talent levels. (On offense, Houston won with T.J. Yates, Alfred Blue and C.J. Fiedorowicz.) Look who's tied for first! # Texans
"We're making our playoff push!!" like
starting Case Keenum, that's what I always say ...
In precisely the kind of game the Rams needed to control at home in order to stay in the playoff race, they were terrible. Every year, St. Louis pulls off a mini hot streak, say winning three out of four, only to falter in the important games against inferior opponents. St. Louis let an injury-riddled Bears team control the game, with a rookie back running wild.
Another team that was off this past weekend. And another group of players -- like the Colts -- who might not have been so desirous of a bye week, considering they'd just played their best game of the season versus the Falcons. The catch is if Blaine Gabbert can continue his brilliant play -- oh my, did I just type "brilliant" there? -- in Seattle. One thing seems certain: The ball is going to come out on time. There are currently five undefeated quarterbacks in the NFL this year: Tom Brady, Cam Newton, Tony Romo ... Matt Hasselbeck and Gabbert. Some of those things are not like the others.
Dez Bryant made headlines for yelling at reporters in the locker room last week. Bryant was seen yelling on the sidelines in typical Dez fashion on Sunday, with Matt Cassel feeling the need to walk over to calm him. Not passing judgment here, but if you are going to yell at everyone else, don't you kind of have to catch a ball right in your hands on third-and-1 to keep the ball out of the Bucs' hands with four minutes remaining?
The Jaguars will take it. Gus Bradley will take it. And Blake Bortles took a brutal facemask for the team, to set up Jason Myers' game-winning field goal in Baltimore. If you didn't see the penultimate play in Baltimore, here it is again. Elvis Dumervil's boneheaded penalty -- and a miscue by officials, apparently -- vaults Jacksonville into the playoff discussion, given the Colts' shaky lead in the AFC South. In case you were wondering, Indy comes to town on Dec. 13. In the meantime, the Jags have two winnable home games on tap (Thursday night vs. the Titans and Week 12 vs. the wounded Chargers), followed by a trip to Tennessee and then the aforementioned home matchup with the Horseshoe. This division could get dicey.
Wonderful day for a Lions franchise that hasn't enjoyed many in 2015 -- and none in Wisconsin since 1991. Detroit's quarterback that day was Erik Kramer. The running back? Take a guess. Yeah, this guy was making defenders tackle other defenders. No one gave those '91 Lions any credit, with Wayne Fontes' team blowing past national indifference all the way to the NFC Championship Game. Similarly, Jim Caldwell and company ignored the noise, so to speak, and delivered the shocker of Week 10.
What a way to lose the game. Ravens fans in Baltimore -- and across the country -- threw up their fish and chips after watching the stunning end against the Jags. Then again, kudos to them for even being able to stomach fish and chips while watching the way this team has managed to steal defeat from the jaws of victory this year. Adding insult to insult: The NFL came out and said that last play should not have even take place. Oof. Next up: a date with the Nick Foles-less Rams.
In a contest where the score made matters appear worse than reality, the (harsh) reality is the Titans couldn't muster enough offense to challenge a defense like the Panthers' unit a week after looking like an aerial circus. (This is often referred to as "The Rob Ryan effect." Just an FYI.) Nothing to be alarmed at, given that Tennessee was rolling with a rookie quarterback ( who probably was not near 100 percent) and an inexperienced starter at tailback. The frustration at the end? Sure, Cam Newton's antics can get annoying to some folks. Or real annoying when you let him run for touchdowns on you. So don't let him run on you. That's how you stop the antics.
Tough loss for the Chargers in Week 9, but with the bye week, Mike McCoy's group had a chance to recover from myriad injuries. Shoot, McCoy had a chance to plain recover. No team needed a bye like the Chargers. Malcom Floyd didn't get much help from the bye, but he's a go with a torn labrum. Or, at least he'll give it a try. Love that dude. #gamer #respect
We would get excited over the improvement of the run defense if
Antonio Brown and
Martavis Bryant hadn't
catch 16 balls for 317 yards and three touchdowns. Pittsburgh averaged 7.8 yards
per play. Given Mike Pettine's
lack of exuberance with regard to starting Johnny Football at quarterback, perhaps the coach should trot Manziel out there at corner.
UPDATE: Pettine announced Tuesday that Manziel will be the Browns' starting quarterback for the remainder of the season.
Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.