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NFL Power Rankings, Week 11: Patriots rise, Cowboys plummet

Always circle Week 11 on the football calendar ...

This point of the season signals the beginning of the stretch run. Most folks in this industry consider that to be a couple weeks later. To me, though, being 5-8 or 6-7 means a team's season is -- more often than not -- decided. But right now, a middling squad has enough time to get in gear and make it to the playoffs. At the same time, we're parked smack dab in the middle of November, so now's the time to make that run (if it's going to happen). This is typically when the Seahawks of the world do precisely that, as seen last Thursday night. Maybe the Titans or Raiders are poised for their own move in the AFC.

Now, on to other matters ...

So true. It's not Romo versus Dak, it's the treatment of Romo compared to the treatment of his successor.


I'm as curious about the Rams as anyone, Adam. Think they might lose this week at Minnesota, but they still finish up at 11-5 (at least).

As for your favorite team, take a gander below. There is plenty for every fan base. Word counts been runnin' wild, man. Always enjoy your take, which we often throw on TV. Send along: @HarrisonNFL is the place.

Let the dissension commence!

PROGRAMMING NOTE: For more in-depth analysis on the updated league pecking order, tune in to NFL Network every Tuesday night at 6 p.m. ET for the "NFL Power Rankings" show. Want to add YOUR voice? Provide your thoughts at the bottom of this page or tweet @HarrisonNFL, and your comments could be featured on air.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The lineup below reflects changes from our Week 10 Power Rankings.

It was a bye week for the best team in pro football (including the CFL). So what could derail these Eagles, who have stormed out to an 8-1 start? Probably not the running game, which was thought to be a problem in preseason but is now a certifiable strength. The secondary's getting back a healthy Ronald Darby, who's been out since dislocating his ankle in Week 1, so probably not that group, either. And probably not the offensive line, which has played well despite losing its top player ( Jason Peters, out for the season with MCL and ACL tears). That leaves the Cowboys, who will be without Ezekiel Elliott for at least the first matchup between Dallas and Philly in Week 11, and who are already three games back in the standings. We'll see.

Somebody tell the Rams they can lose now. Nobody seems to like that they're batting in the two-hole in these rankings. But they're the perfect Mark McLemore. Sorry, dated baseball reference to a player who was a nice No. 2 hitter for a while. Ah, but so many Rams are sacrificing for their teammates, starting with the members of the offensive line. Oft-maligned in 2016, the group has been far improved in 2017. Andrew Whitworth was a brilliant free-agent signing (steal). The unit as a whole helped L.A. gain 6.7 yards per play against Houston on Sunday. That's quite a robust figure. Even if the Rams did allow a few tackles for losses, most of those came on the final drive, with L.A. running out the clock into 99-man fronts. Thought it was time to spread the credit around.

Blowout win in Denver for the Patriots, as Bill Belichick prepares to blow by another legend. On Sunday night, Belichick tied Cowboys icon Tom Landry with 270 career wins, the third-most all-time. Landry's last win came on the road, in a difficult place to play (RFK Stadium in Washington), much like Belichick's 270th. There are also fewer degrees of separation between Belichick and Landry than there are between Belichick and Kevin Bacon. Belichick's first year as a defensive coordinator in the NFL (with the New York Giants) was Landry's last playoff season, 1985. Dallas' offense got the best of Belichick's Giant defense in Week 15 that year, when Cowboys third-string quarterback Steve Pelluer led a late scoring drive, clinching the NFC East title. (I went to that game and still have the program. Belichick used to wear a Giants headband in those pre-hoodie days.) Going further, Belichick's father, Steve Belichick, coached at Navy when future Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach won the Heisman there, in 1963 -- Bill was actually the ballboy. Staubach went on to become Landry's only Hall of Fame quarterback, delivering 97 wins for Dallas and becoming one of the faces of the league. Pats QB Tom Brady is Canton-bound, having done that and more -- Brady earned his 86th road win Sunday night, an incredible accomplishment in its own right. History is awesome.

Really enjoyed that two-play scoring drive spearheaded by Chase Daniel and Trey Edmunds in the fourth quarter. Imagine you're a Saints fan who finished visiting your kid at UL-Monroe (formerly NELU, home of Bubby Brister), turned on the radio on the drive south down Highway 165 and heard the following: Daniel hands it to Edmunds ... who goes 3 yards up the middle. You'd think it was August and you were just dropping your kid off at school to start the year. What a day for New Orleans, which put up big points, while the defense very quietly has turned into a top-five unit. I wrote about Sean Payton changing the whole approach to a run game/defense deal this offseason, but I never expected this.

Why, how or when the Steelers play down to an opponent is anybody's guess. Well, save for the last part. It seems to always happen on the road. The Steelers escaped Indy on Sunday after the pass rush woke up in the second half. A few folks are wondering when the passing game is going to get woke. It was another pedestrian day from Ben Roethlisberger and the air attack, although the franchise quarterback made a few big third-down throws in the fourth quarter, including the 7-yard touchdown to Vance McDonald to tie the game. Hard to say how seriously we can take these guys. Then again, history tells us they'll be in thick of things come January.

Quarterback Case Keenum looked as though he was playing to win the job in 2018 -- until that fourth quarter. Keenum tossed four touchdowns on the road against a Redskins team that just shut down the Seahawks. (We'll pretend those two D.J. Swearinger interceptions never happened.) Then there was Adam Thielen's performance. Make no mistake, Keenum-to-Thielen (eight hookups for 166 yards and a touchdown on 12 targets) was the most unstoppable connection on the planet -- the world -- Sunday. Those guys straight wiped out whoever was in coverage, be it Bashaud Breeland or, yes, even Josh Norman. Thielen is ranked in the top three in the league in receiving yards. It ain't fluky.

After watching the replay approximately 538 times, I am still not sure why Jaguars safety Tashaun Gipson's apparent go-ahead touchdown on the late fumble recovery didn't count. Nobody touched him. No replay provided any visual support to the notion of him getting touched. The confusing review did allow Jags fans to hold their breath with the ball in Blake Bortles' hand on not one but two drives at the end of regulation. Give credit to Bortles and his Jacksonville teammates for pulling out the overtime win against the Chargers. Especially when Doug Marrone's staff wouldn't have run the football in the second half if it had @MJD, Fred Taylor, Emmitt Smith, Thurman Thomas or Jim Brown in the backfield. You know it's a bad day for the ground game when the head coach thinks, I'd rather have Bortles drop back 50 times than run it.

Much-needed rest for the Chiefs, who screamed through the first five games of 2017, only to hit the skids over the last month. As I wrote in the Power Rankings last week, remember the difficult schedule this team has played. Now the offensive line is intact, with Mitch Morse and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif fully healthy -- well, as healthy as offensive linemen can be at this point in the season. Getting Kareem Hunt going again will be helpful, as the running back has slowed after his torrid pace early on. Perhaps he's hitting a rookie wall, though Week 10 would be a bit early for such things. Educated guess: Kansas City is probably an 11-5 or 12-4 team.

As rough as this season has seemed to go for the Seahawks, you look at the record and realize Pete Carroll's group is 6-3. Which goes to show the standard this organization has created amongst not only its players, but also its fans and the media alike. The schedule going forward is not easy, however, especially considering the Seahawks lost Richard Sherman (ruptured Achilles) for the season on Thursday night. Recall what happened when Seattle lost Earl Thomas in Week 13 last season. Key game: Seahawks at Cowboys, Week 16. That will be Ezekiel Elliott's first game back from his current six-game suspension, if he doesn't have 1,008 more legal out-routes. That contest could decide one of the wild-card spots.

The Panthers move back into the top 10 after falling precipitously out of it three weeks ago. The drop came when the offense did nothing but provide the Bears points in Week 7. Cam Newton and friends could do no wrong Monday night. Everything Mike Shula dialed up worked to perfection. If you're scoring at home, Carolina came 5 yards shy of running for five bills over the last two weeks. The 45 points on Monday weren't too shabby, either. The only thing keeping the Panthers from being higher is the complete catalogue from the offense, which has been up and down (mostly down) all season. One explosion versus a floundering Dolphins team is not enough to anoint Carolina a Super Bowl contender. Nice night, Jonathan Stewart. #28

With so many teams in front of them struggling, the Titans get a significant bump in the rankings. At 11th, they would be a wild-card team. Is that realistic? You bet, bubbie. Especially if the "exotic smashmouth" (still a make-this-sound-more-complex-than-it-is football moniker) produces 5 yards per carry and 180 yards, like it did Sunday versus the Bengals. Looking at the schedule, Tennessee has a tough game coming up at Heinz. After that? How about at Colts, vs. Texans, at Cardinals and at 49ers. Yep, lotta road trips. Of course, driving to Clarksville is a road trip, too. That don't make it tough. Especially if you're listening to some Highwaymen.

Seen many Falcons games over the years. Never caught an Atlanta pass rusher racking up six sacks. Not Vic Beasley. Not Patrick Kerney. Not Chuck Smith. Not Rick Bryan, Mike Pitts or Al Richardson, or any dude on the "Grits Blitz," as top-of-the-line as Leeman Bennett's defenses were. Maybe Claude Humphrey did it, but teams didn't keep reliable sack numbers in the early 1970s, when he rocked. What Adrian Clayborn produced Sunday was nothing short of awesome, no matter who it came against. Chaz Green is in the NFL. Clayborn beat him five times. Then he beat backup Byron Bell, too. Clayborn was bigger than Matt Ryan, Julio Jones or anyone else in that win over Dallas.

One week after being proclaimed Super Bowl contenders, the Cowboys are in a trouble spot. That's what losing four of your top-flight players will do. Dallas found out the hard way against Atlanta on Sunday. Dak Prescott has progressed nicely in Year 2, though, irrespective of the loss to the Falcons. He, too, is a really good player. Yet, couldn't help but tweet the truth about his predecessor. If a Tony Romo-led offense had produced seven points in a loss, holy cow. The Criticism Lite keg would've tapped out. Prescott might turn out to be better, but the Chaz Green excuse was never there for No. 9.

Even if Sunday's comeback victory against the Browns scared the living Ray Crockett out of Lions fans, Detroit did tally another win, pushing the overall record to a respectable 5-4. Considering how many interested parties predicted 5-11 for this franchise in 2017, the Lions are doing alright. Then when you look at their back sked, you realize Jim Caldwell's team will probably finish with a winning record and possibly a playoff berth. The rundown: at Bears, vs. Vikings, at Ravens, at Bucs, vs. Bears, at Bengals, vs. Packers. All of those games are winnable. #WayneFontes

Didn't matter what defensive coordinator Greg Manusky was calling out there. The Vikings solved it, and right quick. Minnesota's offense scored 35 points in its first 31 plays. Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur not only won the chess match, but nearly every move therein. If Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith don't get home for the Redskins, their secondary can't hold the fort very long. That's why Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins had to be perfect Sunday. Unfortunately for Washington, he wasn't. Putting that aside, I can't help but be impressed by D.J. Swearinger. He was everywhere Sunday: picks, run support, you name it.

Must've really overrated these Bills, unless that was the ultimate anomaly we saw Sunday. That was as ugly a loss as I've seen all season. Though it could've been worse. Way worse. What if New Orleans hadn't fumbled in the red zone? What if the Saints hadn't stood on the brake pedal in the fourth quarter? On one drive in the final period, the Saints ran the football on 12 of 14 plays, with Buffalo knowing that's all they were gonna do. They still scored.

The Chargers continue to play relatively good football, even if the win-loss record doesn't reflect it. The voltage petered out in overtime of the loss to the Jaguars, but not before the Bolts had positioned themselves to win. You had to feel bad for Austin Ekeler, who won himself a prominent role in coordinator Ken Whisenhunt's offense, even over the much-ballyhooed Melvin Gordon, only to lose the football at the most unclutch time. Bottom line: Playing in Jacksonville isn't as easy as it used to be. The Chargers are going to be a hard out down the stretch.

The Raiders were one of the bye teams last week, with an opportunity for Derek Carr to rest his back while the offense learns how to get back on its feet. Not sure anyone thought Oakland's once-prolific pass attack would be this sputtery, with the air raid from last year having bombed out through much of the first half of the season. Encouraging signs against Miami in Week 9, though. The Dolphins are good for that.

Of all the Bears-y ways to lose, Sunday's might've taken the cake. Can fans throw a challenge flag on their head coach while he's throwing the challenge flag? I would rehash what happened, but haven't fans in Chicago been through enough? (You can watch the Benny Cunningham play here.) By the end, it looked like Brett Hundley and the Packers wanted it more, like when Jamaal Williams ran through three tacklers to convert a second-and-4, causing the Bears to burn timeouts just ahead of the two-minute warning. Better news: A little more was put on Mitchell Trubisky's plate, with more good plays than bad.

Much like the Raiders -- and even the Chiefs, to a certain extent -- the Ravens must've used a large portion of their bye week trying to figure out how to pump life into their air game. Injuries to tight end Dennis Pitta, running back Danny Woodhead and, perhaps most importantly, offensive guard Marshal Yanda have stymied the Baltimore offense. The lack of development from receiver Breshad Perriman has stunted the passing game further, leaving Joe Flacco to rely on dinks, dunks and the occasional intermediate throw to Mike Wallace. It's also enhanced the use of Alex Collins, who has been a bright spot thus far this season. If the Ravens can see even a little progress on that side of the ball, their easy sked could whisk them into the postseason.

Congrats, Brett Hundley. Can you imagine stepping in for Aaron Rodgers for an extended period of time? Few have succeeded in replacing legends. Just ask Steve Young (replacing Joe Montana) or Jay Fiedler (replacing Dan Marino). Hundley took plenty of flak from the Cheez-It gallery last week, only to come up with multiple big throws to Davante Adams while using his legs effectively on a 17-yard scamper late in the win over the Bears. Also taking heat from the Green Bay mob: defensive coordinator Dom Capers. His unit consistently got off the field Sunday, forcing 11 outs on third and fourth down.

Tough going these days for the Broncos, especially in the area of football that people don't like to delve into much: special teams. The kick coverage, punt team and general kicking-game organization failed Sunday night. The most frustrating error had to be the penalty for having 12 men on the field when the Broncos stopped the Patriots on third-and-4 early in the fourth quarter. Down 34-16, Vance Joseph's group still could have made a game out of it. That -- and turnovers on the wrong side of the field -- continue to plague this team.

The Colts won't go down easy, as the Steelers were the latest to find out. After absorbing a couple of blowouts on the West Coast earlier this season, Indy pushed the superior Steelers to the limit at Lucas Oil on Sunday. Unfortunately for the Colts, Jacoby Brissett joined the pantheon of Indy quarterbacks done in by the offensive line. Hopefully, the gutty Brissett will emerge from the concussion protocol fully healthy. Meanwhile, DC Ted Monachino's defense played ball against Pittsburgh. Given that the Colts were 32nd in points allowed coming in, that's notable. And they can't lose to the inferior Week 11 Byes.

It feels like the Cardinals are a worse team than they are, despite being viable in the playoff chase with a near-.500 record. That's probably because their four wins came against the Colts, 49ers (twice) and Bucs. The combined record of those teams? Putrid. There was a tad bit of Twitter speculation that Carson Palmer would have pulled out that game against the Seahawks. Perhaps, but it's not like Palmer was doing too well this season when healthy. Think Arizona misses David Johnson much more. Markus Golden, too.

Ryan Fitzpatrick still runs around like a bearded wild man from the days of fur trappers and bears stage-diving onto Leo DiCaprio. Hey, it works sometimes. Remember this one from 2015 against the Texans? Fitz made it interesting in the win over the Jets, with his usual red-zone interception to make you feel all was the same in the world, with the Earth warming and Coldplay still being overrated. Underneath it all was a stellar performance from Mike Smith's defense, which played Josh McCown tougher than any team this season. Word.

When Josh McCown's pop fly to center landed in Brent Grimes' hands, you knew it was going to be a long day. I like how Grimes raised his hand up in the air mid-play, a slight (if unintended) nod to Deion Sanders doing the same in Oakland in his first season with the Cowboys in 1995. This New York team has surprised everybody -- everybody -- who covers the league, but on Sunday, the Jets looked much like their own '95 team. Who loved the start of the Rich Kotite era more than my 40-year-old Jets fans reading this? And to think: You got Neil O'Donnell that next year. Get excited.

No move down for the Bengals, despite the loss, because the league membership below them is sub-par. Well, sub-Cincy, which is far below sub-par at this point. While no one should overreact to the 3-6 start or suggest blowing the whole operation up and starting over, it's obvious there is no serious run in this current group, or at least not a strong enough run to squeeze Cincinnati into the postseason. A.J. Green is still elite. If Andy Dalton kept playing at the level he did Sunday (or better), while Joe Mixon improved and Tyler Eifert was getting healthy, the Bengals would be viable. But Eifert is gone for the year, and all anyone talks about on the highlight shows is Vontaze Burfict. Thought his infraction was a little weaksauce on Sunday. Reputation.

Do the Dolphins feel like the worst 4-5 team ever? Perhaps that's a tad strong, but Miami fans aren't defending the mediocre record on social media. Not after falling to the Ravens 40-zip on "Thursday Night Football." Or 20-nothing to the Saints in London. After getting manhandled at the point of attack -- and on the scoreboard -- Monday night, Adam Gase's group has now been embarrassed three times in front of a national audience. The Dolphins' point differential is minus-87. That means they're losing by an average of 9.7 points per game. There are quality, prideful players on this team, like Cameron Wake. Methinks we'll see a rebound. How strong? Mmmmm ... uhhhh ... well ...

The slow crawl up the pro football ladder has begun in earnest for the pesky 49ers, who lost many a close game this season before earning W1 on Sunday versus the Giants. Good for them, and great for head coach Kyle Shanahan. While the football world has reacted to general manager John Lynch with dulcet tones and beautiful hues, Shanahan drew much criticism for his aversion to the run during Super Bowl LI. Time to let it go. In fact, his Niners ground game was formidable against Big Blue. Matt Breida filtered his way through the Giants defense for an impressive touchdown run. Filtered. Wait for it ...

Haven't watched that new Seth MacFarlane sci-fi spoof yet, but it can't be any worse than Tom Savage and the offense on Sunday. The cool thing about strip-sack fumbles is ... at least they aren't Matt Schaub pick-sixes! So there's that. (Called my friend who used to be a Texans cheerleader to find out if anyone in Houston likes Star Trek or the incredible "Spaceballs." She didn't answer. #research) All of this is my convenient way of delaying talking about the awful game in Los Angeles. If that contest didn't reveal how valuable Deshaun Watson is, it at least shows there is a cliff in regards to how many significant injuries a team can take. Reading John McClain's Twitter feed tells me how much of this current team people can take.

Nothing has revealed how much can drastically change from season to season as starkly as the fall of the Giants' defense. The overall record (11-5 in 2016 to 1-8 in 2017) is what everyone will point to. Still others angle a lazy finger in Eli Manning's direction. Yet, the real disappointment has been the (rapid) decline of a defense that went from second in points allowed to 28th today. It was nearly impossible to run on these guys last year. Now Ron Dayne could probably put up 100 yards on 'em. Weird. Both the fall, and the "Thunder and Lightning" pull.

Need to rewatch some of Sunday's loss on Game Pass. I want to see what went terribly wrong in the second half. At one stage of the third quarter, the Brownies were up seven and moving the ball. Hue Jackson's offense piled up 413 yards on the road, which is no joke (only the Falcons have gained more in Detroit this season). Rarely do I get a not-sarcastic Browns take on Twitter. Send any you might have along to me. Feel the offense is best when Isaiah Crowell gets going and Duke Johnson is heck-on-wheels on third down. Defensively, team brass needs another pass rusher and a cover corner. You?

*Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL. And be sure to tune in to the "NFL Power Rankings" show on NFL Network every Tuesday night at 6 p.m. ET. *

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