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NFL Power Rankings, Week 13: Seahawks hit top 10; Steelers fall

Quarterback play dominates the NFL landscape.

Or bloated quarterback play, we should say. The numbers this current crop of passers are putting up stretch all manner of conventional wisdom, sabermetrics or the imagination of the 1930s-era league braintrust. If only Benny Friedman, Arnie Herber or Sammy Baugh -- the game's early throwers -- were alive to see the open windows the guys under center are seeing today. It's borderline ridiculous.


A) The top six teams below all feature an elite quarterback.
B)Drew Brees threw four touchdown passes on Thanksgiving night and it was actually an off game for him, considering that day's passer rating (111.9) vs. his season mark (127.3 -- which, by the way, will be a single-season record if it stands).
C) The league average passer rating is 94.7. Steve Young led the NFL with a 97.2 rating in 1996.
D) Not even 20 years ago, a great TD-to-INT ratio was considered to be 2:1. Aaron Rodgers is cruising along at 20:1. Brees? 14.5:1. (And that was with a pick the other night that should've been DPI.) Russell Wilson is sporting a 5:1 figure. Jared Goff is at 4.3:1. Ditto Philip Rivers. Patrick Mahomes is at 3.7:1. To put this all in perspective, Dan Marino retired having thrown approximately 1.7 touchdowns to every pick. Think about that. Dan freaking Marino.
E)Philip Rivers went 28 for 29 throwing the ball around the yard Sunday. Marcus Mariota went 22 for 23 on Monday. What more needs to be said?

The sport has completely morphed over the last decade, with increased emphasis on penalizing illegal contact, high-tech gloves for receivers and player-safety rules making the offensive game completely incongruent with days past. It makes comparing players from different eras impossible, unlike in the MLB or NBA. And for the purposes of the exercise below, teams can't contend without a premier player at quarterback -- unless they have instant offense on defense (SEE: Bears). While this notion has been sold before, it's true now more than ever before. Even more than last year.

OK, enough from me -- what's on your mind?


The updated league hierarchy sits below, with continuity at the very top and very bottom. Movement abounds everywhere in between, especially among those teams jockeying for wild-card position. Your take on any squad is welcome ... @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 Power Rankings Show." Want to add YOUR voice? Provide your thoughts in a tweet to @HarrisonNFL, and your comments could be featured on air.

Previous rank: No. 1

The Saints reasserted their hold on the prime spot among the NFL's top-shelf teams again, taking the opening drive against Atlanta down the field as if the divisional matchup with the Falcons was light fare, like a polite game of Frisbee golf among friends. Drew Brees did hiccup enough to throw his first interception since Week 8. Let's be real: Pass interference should have been called on Atlanta on that play, anyway. Brees' touchdown-to-interception ratio (a.k.a. his wonderful-play-to-not-so-wonderful-play ratio) is now up to 29:2, with four of his touchdown passes going to guys who might not have been able to start for the University of North Texas in college. OK, so that's an exaggeration. The truth is, Brees is having the greatest passing season of modern times, surpassing Tom Brady's 2010 campaign.

Previous rank: No. 2

Following what might have been the greatest regular-season game in NFL history, the Rams were off last week, so I thought I'd try to name the five best Rams games ever. Here we go:

 **1) 1999 NFC Championship Game: Rams 11, Buccaneers 6.** Sent the 
 Rams to the 
 Super Bowl -- and it required a clutch throw-and-catch for the ages to win. 
 **2) 1951 NFL Championship Game: Rams 24, Browns 17.** The franchise had lost two straight title games and was becoming known as a strong offensive team that continually came up short. The 
 Rams handed the 
 Browns their first championship defeat after Cleveland won five titles in a row in the old AAFC and NFL. 
 **3) Super Bowl XXXIV: Rams 23, Titans 16.** One yard short, first Lombardi -- 'nuff said. 
 **4) 1989 Divisional Playoffs: Rams 19, Giants 13 (OT).** Jim Everett to Flipper Anderson 
 through the end zone and up the tunnel to beat Lawrence Taylor and the second-seeded 
 Giants in OT. 
 **5) Chiefs-Rams two Mondays ago.** Football officially came back to L.A. in a prime-time game that will be remembered for years. 

Previous rank: No. 3

My dad was a fan of the Dallas Texans and then, after Lamar Hunt moved them out of Texas to K.C., a fan of the Kansas City Chiefs. So if, after reading the Rams blurb above, you're wondering how last Monday night's classic stacks up in Chiefs history, not to worry; while there is much ground to cover, I've got a list to digest below:

 **1) 1969 AFL Championship Game: Chiefs 17, Oakland Raiders 7.** To get to 
 Super Bowl IV, the 
 Chiefs had to beat the 
 Raiders, AFL stalwarts and Western Divisional rivals. Oakland was the premier team in the AFL that season under first-year head coach John Madden. 
 **2) Super Bowl IV: Chiefs 23, Vikings 7.** Has to be here. Kansas City proved its league was every bit as strong as the NFL by adding an exclamation point to the 
 Jets' win over the older league the year prior. 
 **3) 1993 AFC Divisional Playoffs: Chiefs 28, Oilers 20.** While the wild-card game that year (a 27-24 overtime win against the Steelers) was the better contest, this one featured Joe Montana leading Kansas City to an upset win over the Super Bowl-favorite Oilers. 
 **4) 1971 Divisional Playoffs: Dolphins 27, Chiefs 24 (OT).** I know it was a loss, yet -- like the "The Ice Bowl" did for the 
 Packers and 
 Cowboys -- this game featured the character of both teams. It took six quarters to finish and is still the longest game in NFL history. 
 Chiefs running back Ed Podolak gained 350 all-purpose yards that day! 
 **5) Chiefs-Rams two Mondays ago.** This narrowly edges out 
 Young vs. Montana in 1994, as well as Montana's nail-biter of a win over John Elway on Monday night later that same season. Also of note is the 1962 AFL Championship Game, which also spilled into OT. Then there's the 1986 regular-season finale, during which K.C. scored all of its points on special teams to make the playoffs. Oh, and how about Dante Hall beating the 
 Broncos on a 93-yard punt return in 2003? All great. 

Previous rank: No. 5

The Patriots file another one in the win column with their two-touchdown victory over the Jets, a typical AFC East matchup between these two. New York was game early on, but then Gronk ate a safety on his way to hauling in a vertical strike from Tom Brady right up the seam. If there was a poster-worthy touchdown that could sum up Gronk's career, that was it. Perhaps the only shocker in the win was running back James White, who was at one point seemingly on his way to a 100-catch season, being "held" to one reception. The defense? Two hundred and sixty-four passing yards allowed, while the Jets were limited to 26 minutes in time of possession. Not bad.

Previous rank: No. 6

Listening to the Chargers' radio broadcast of their game against the Cardinals, I heard NFL Network colleague Daniel Jeremiah say he felt like he was watching Philip Rivers put together a perfect game after never having seen one from the Padres, of whom he is a lifelong fan. Twenty seconds after Jeremiah made that comment, Rivers got hot about having to call a timeout. Rivers is the guy fans love to hate for being so demonstrative on the field ... because he cares. Next play, Rivers rolls out, takes his time, then calmly completes his *25th pass in a row* for a third touchdown. Haters gonna hate, but they sure sound stupid doing it. Rivers is Canton-bound.

Previous rank: No. 4

 Ben Roethlisberger sure makes those goal-to-go end-game scenarios intriguing. A week after diving in the Jags' end zone to 
 win the day in Jacksonville, Roethlisberger tossed the ball 
 to the other team's nose tackle in the other team's end zone. Still, this is not an appropriate time to be anxious if you're a 
 Steelers fan. Pittsburgh played consecutive games on the road, splitting against desperate teams clinging to scant playoff hopes, 
 and the loss on Sunday came in Denver, a tough place to play. Roethlisberger did pass for well over 400 yards, while 
 JuJu Smith-Schuster (13 catches, 189 yards) acted like he was in an arcade game. He might be forced to keep up the bean counting, because 
 Philip Rivers and the electric 
 Chargers offense 
 come to town this week. Fun. 

Previous rank: No. 7

The Bears won't allow opposing quarterbacks to climb the pocket -- but they are lobbying hard to climb further up these rankings. In the win over the Lions on Thanksgiving, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio applied pressure early with his front seven against Matthew Stafford, then refused to take his foot off the gas pedal. His MVP on Thursday was safety Eddie Jackson, who produced his fifth return touchdown in the last two years -- and it beat all the others in importance, putting Chicago up a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Considering that Chase Daniel was starting on three days' notice, every score was gonna count. Jackson and that defense won the game.

Previous rank: No. 8

When Deshaun Watson gets out of the pocket, it's mostly to throw the ball from a different platform. But when he decides not to throw, it's scarier. Watson was so effective on the move Monday night, be it rolling to his right before launching a perfect throw or taking off right up the gut of the defense for a huge gain. All of which provided a glimpse into the Texans' immediate future, and the past -- last season's game in the Seattle springs to mind. How about that Houston defense, too? Six sacks, eight QB hits and a staggering eight tackles for a loss. That's a ton. So is 97 yards on a safe run up the middle.

Previous rank: No. 10

At 6-4-1, the Vikings are in excellent position to grab a wild-card spot in the NFC. This is not to suggest that the NFC North is out of the question. Yet, with three of their next four games on the road -- including at New England in Week 13 and at Seattle in Week 14 -- overcoming the 8-3 Bears will be a lonnnnng walk. Worth noting here is that Minnesota hosts Chicago in Week 17, which could prove crucial, should Matt Nagy's outfit stumble down the stretch. As far as Sunday night's win is concerned, guessing the Packers will think twice -- or 20 times -- about blitzing Kirk Cousins (29-of-38, 342 yards, three TDs, 129.5 passer rating) too much again.

Previous rank: No. 12

No one seems to know how the Seahawks are doing it, but boy are they doing it. You can mark "six up, five down" in your QuickBooks or whatever you use at home. Or maybe you aren't so nerdy that you still write standings down in your Street & Smith's, like so many of us '80s kids did. Pete Carroll has his kids playing, and it shouldn't be a reach to consider him a Coach of the Year candidate. Carroll has never won the award, not after two playoff campaigns with the Patriots, a pair of Super Bowl appearances with the Seahawks or pushing a Seattle group that went 5-11 before his arrival to the Divisional Round in 2010. Hmm.

 **Side note:** If you think 
 Seahawks fans are simply rowdy, without any uber-nerdy deep-dive football fans in their midst, think again. Your friendly writer went to a friend's '80s-themed 50th birthday party. A real big guy with chocolate-looking hair (think Davey's hair 
 on "Davey and Goliath") and an all-white 
 *linen* suit with a turquoise shirt cornered me. No hi, no hello -- before I could utter a word, he gave me the kind of grim look Dr. Leonard McCoy would have been proud of and said: "Top five 
 *defenders* of all time? I would have had Earl (Thomas) before that salute he gave the crowd a few weeks ago, but I have to go Cortez Kennedy. Has to be Cortez Kennedy. That is the correct answer." My response: "Can I buy you an appletini?" (I did eventually give him my top five: 
 Earl Thomas, Kenny Easley, Cortez Kennedy, Jacob Green and 
 Bobby Wagner.) 

Previous rank: No. 11

The Ravens have enjoyed little in the way of respect from the national crowd over the last month. Sunday's victory over the two-win Raiders -- a home game, no less -- won't be bringing home that brand of bacon any time soon. With Baltimore at 6-5, though, and with the Bengals and Dolphins losing, guess who is staring the postseason in the face? Here is the deal: Presuming Joe Flacco gets healthy, the Ravens have not one but two quarterbacks, and arguably three. Their defense ranks first in the NFL in both total and scoring D. The question mark had been the running game, although that concern now seems to have been answered. Gus Edwards has 233 rushing yards over the last two weeks, often picking up green in chunks. And that's the issue with trying to stop rookie QB Lamar Jackson: Defenses are forced to play 11-on-11 in the run game. Flacco, meanwhile, is a non-factor after handing the football off. Edwards' success reminds me of how Alfred Morris ran up huge numbers as a rookie with RGIII ... who is Baltimore's third viable quarterback. You heard me.

Previous rank: No. 13

The Cowboys moved into a tie for first place by beating the Redskins for the eighth time on Thanksgiving. Along the way, they were helped by a large dose of Amari Cooper -- and a small cup from the refs. Cooper's 90-yard touchdown was all speed and want-to. Meanwhile, two missed calls were huge factors, those being the hold on Colt McCoy's late interception and the (very) apparent helmet-to-helmet hit on Jordan Reed. My brother threw on a Cowboys beanie cap when Dallas was up 17-13, then refused to take it off indoors after the 'Boys had gone up 31-13. Before those missed penalties, he told me the beanie was his "good luck cap and gave Dallas plus-two invisibility with the refs." Then the officiating crew missed those two calls. That s#$^ works.

Previous rank: No. 14

The Colts are 6-5, having won five straight behind a quarterback who is a candidate for league MVP. Don't misunderstand me: Andrew Luck was far from perfect against the Dolphins on Sunday. He even managed the rare feat of throwing two interceptions in less than a minute of game clock -- to the same guy. Xavien Howard's exploits aside, Luck rebounded by bringing Indy back from 10 points down in the second half with exemplary play, setting up Adam Vinatieri's 18,144th game-winning kick to move into wild-card position, if not contention for the AFC South. Back to Luck: Where would the Colts be without him? Analysts say that all the time regarding Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, yet Luck's play is as valuable as that of anyone this side of Drew Brees.

Previous rank: No. 9

Ron Rivera must feel like his riverboat is sinking. The Panthers lost their third game in a row, letting Russell Wilson riddle their secondary time and again when it mattered most. No play was bigger than the deep ball to David Moore, a 35-yard loft that tied things up late. Graham Gano missed from 52 a week after shanking an extra-point try and missing another field-goal attempt. There is no underrating the loss, which allows the Seahawks, Redskins and Vikings to pull ahead of Carolina in the wild-card race after the Panthers were in the driver's seat in early November. And in front of the home folk, too. Rivera: "Can't allow big plays over the top." Yep.

Previous rank: No. 15

Maybe a 4-6-1 record will be too much for the Packers to overcome. If Aaron Rodgers is the best player in pro football, as so many people suggest, then Green Bay should have a chance to make the postseason. In the meantime, speculation about Mike McCarthy and his inability to win more than one Super Bowl with Rodgers is running rampant, inasmuch as it pertains to the coach's future in Green Bay. You will make few allies in this business by levying any criticism at the quarterback. Thus, all fault will land at McCarthy's feet. Although Rodgers will tell you himself that he missed Davante Adams in the end zone late. From this vantage point, the key moment of the game centered not on Rodgers' arm but the fourth-down call to run Aaron Jones in the third quarter -- and that you can put on the head coach. Harrison Smith made the clutch stop, and it was Minnesota's ball. Tramon Williams allowing that punted football to hit him sure didn't help. What will help? The Packers' next opponent: Arizona.

Previous rank: No. 18

What an odd way for the Broncos to weave their way back into the AFC wild-card chase. Denver patched together a win Sunday over a Super Bowl contender while putting forth an exhibit of how timely plays, often hidden in the box score, can win games. The Steelers rolled up more than 500 yards of offense -- including 452 through the air from their quarterback -- held the football for 35 minutes, and still lost. The Broncos pulled ahead by converting Pittsburgh's turnovers into touchdowns, including a third-quarter drive with an exchange rate of 37 seconds from interception to score. Otherwise, the offense muddled around most of the day. Then Vance Joseph and Co. won when their nose tackle intercepted a Hall of Fame quarterback. They'll take it. Next up: at Bengals.

Previous rank: No. 16

 The Redskins showed something on Turkey Day. Yeah, I know they lost. But this team is all sorts of banged up, and coach Jay Gruden had Washington ready to play. A few stanzas changed the shape of the game, like 
 the ridiculous interception by DeMarcus Lawrence (a great effort that could have victimized any quarterback) or the no-call on the defensive holding of 
 Cole Beasley ... which was far more evident than the hold the refs missed on 
 Colt McCoy's final pick. Troy Aikman, who I am pretty sure is not a favorite among Washington fans, was appropriate in mentioning Gruden toward the end of the broadcast. Gruden has kept this group together despite many moving parts and, last we checked, his team is still in a tie for first place in the NFC East. 

Previous rank: No. 22

If you happened to watch "The Power Rankings Show" last Tuesday (on NFL Network every Tuesday at 6 p.m. ET), you might have noticed that one of the two analysts not named James Jones predicted Baker Mayfield accounting for four touchdowns against the Bengals. And, well, he did! As for the defensive side of things, major props to Myles Garrett, who was a terror late in Sunday's win over the Bengals, getting a big sack, then causing a false start (through sheer left tackle terror) that turned a third-and-3 into a third-and-8, which Cincy ultimately couldn't convert. Felt for Hue Jackson. His look was that of a guy who knows he wasn't the best boyfriend in his last relationship, then sees his ex with a guy in a brown turtleneck, parking (then re-parking) his Range Rover in front of his favorite club.

Previous rank: No. 24

The Josh Adams-is-starting-fanaticism spent its first life Sunday. Other than on one drive, the ground attack was mostly so-so, as Carson Wentz, and not the ground game, was asked to carry the offense against the Giants. While not exactly spectacular, Wentz played more like a wily vet, taking what openings the Giants' defense would allow and calmly hitting his receivers. The Eagles' franchise quarterback averaged more than 8 yards per throw while not turning the football over. Given that this showdown morphed into the kind of traditional, tight NFC East toss-up straight from the Bill Parcells-Buddy Ryan days, not giving the ball away played big. As did special teams -- Jake Elliott delivered with the game on the line, just like last year, in the same venue against same old Big Blue. The NFC East is still within reach. Next up: Redskins.

Previous rank: No. 17

The Falcons did not look like a team playing for its playoff life against the Saints on Thanksgiving night. Never mind that they were facing a superior club and suffered a couple of weird turnovers (the Calvin Ridley fumble was the butter on the roll). The sense of urgency just wasn't there. With over half the fourth quarter gone and New Orleans up three touchdowns, Atlanta took its sweet time on offense. Rodney Harrison (no relation) pointed it out immediately. At 4-7, and with the Ravens, Packers and Panthers coming up, securing that wild-card spot will be awfully tough.

Previous rank: No. 19

A sure way to lose in the NFL is to fail to score points. And a sure way to fail to score points is to get stuck in the red zone ... and suffer negative plays ... and commit too many penalties on offense. Because if you were to take a quick glance at Monday night's box score, you'd think Tennessee ran near-perfect offense. Marcus Mariota went 22 for 23. The Titans eclipsed 100 yards rushing on 23 carries. But upon closer inspection, you'd see too many tackles for a loss, and a ground game inflated by a long run from a wide receiver.

Previous rank: No. 20

 That was a bad loss on 
 Thanksgiving. You don't have to get blown out to suffer an ugly defeat in the NFL. The 
 Lions got outcoached, and I don't say that often, if ever. I don't even recall writing it. There were virtually no offensive adjustments, especially to the pressure the 
 Bears were forcing up the middle. Going for two made zero sense following 
 the LeGarrette Blount touchdown run in the third quarter that put Detroit up 13-9. That missing point made a difference when the game was tied at 16 with less than 10 minutes to go in the fourth quarter, putting pressure on the 
 Lions to go down and score. Perhaps with a one-point lead, they could've played conservatively (Blount had a fine day on the ground) to, in turn, force 
 Chase Daniel to try to win the game. Instead, 
 Matt Stafford threw a pick-six to 
 Eddie Jackson and Chicago never looked back. The red-zone plays were terrible, only to be surpassed by the listless route 
 Michael Roberts ran that led to the interception. Awful. 

Previous rank: No. 23

So the Dolphins did everything they needed to do to steal a road win Sunday -- save for closing the door on an elite quarterback. Miami created turnovers, made hay on special teams and even posted the first sack on Indy's offensive line since early October. Adam Gase got his starting quarterback back, while Frank Gore and Kenyan Drake contributed a few pops in the run game, but none of it was enough. Andrew Luck would not let his Colts lose, atoning for two first-half picks with nearly flawless second-half throws. The playoffs are probably out of Miami's future, but you never know, with two games left against the Bills, plus one against the Jaguars. Methinks the Dolphins must defeat the Patriots at home in two weeks to have a Griese's chance. They've done it before, though, plenty of times.

Previous rank: No. 28

Don't sleep on these Bills, who finally got some ROI on first-round quarterback Josh Allen in the passing game. Allen might not have been point guard on the K-Gun out there in the win over the Jaguars, but he did deliver a beautiful ball to Robert Foster for a 75-yard touchdown. Foster had only caught five balls coming in ... all season. Prior to Allen's heave, Buffalo ran a designed bootleg on second-and-6, building off the Wyoming product's considerable athleticism. Late in the game, with the Bills clinging to a seven-point lead, Allen managed a ferocious Jags pass rush, ducking and sprinting through the Jacksonville front seven and well past the first-down marker. Just like that, instead of facing third-and-long deep in their own territory, Sean McDermott's squad was 45 yards downfield in field-goal range. Watch it again right here. You're welcome.

Previous rank: No. 21

Guess Marvin Lewis calling defensive plays didn't do diddly-poo. The Bengals allowed 35 points in the first 32 minutes of the loss to the Browns, including four Baker Mayfield touchdown passes. It seems weird to say, but at 5-6, Cincy is likely already out of the postseason race. With road games looming at the Chargers, at the Browns and at the Steelers, seven wins will be about the most the Bengals can hope to accomplish with Andy Dalton on injured reserve with a thumb injury.

 **Side note:** Thumbs up do go to backup QB 
 Jeff Driskel, who, if you didn't watch this game (we know you didn't; it's cool), performed admirably in a pinch. The kid showed poise and mobility out of the pocket, and he delivered several on-time, accurate throws. After seeing him fit a laser to 
 John Ross on one of the 
 Bengals' late drives, it was apparent Driskel was owning his opportunity, not playing as though the game was bigger than his skill set. Am I overrating Driskel's showing, Cincy fans? 
 (@HarrisonNFL) Don't think so. 

Previous rank: No. 26

 What a weird, unsettling day for 
 Giants fans. Despite the 3-7 record coming in, there existed hope in corners of New Jersey, Manhattan and the Big Blue locker room that this team could run the table, or perhaps drop only one game down the stretch and steal the NFC East. You know, the ol' 
 *shoot for the stars, hit the ceiling* kind of deal. That was predicated on beating an 
 Eagles team that had dropped three of its last four games. The 
 Giants built an early 19-3 lead, then were tripped up by a series of miscues, poor decisions and unfortunate occurrences -- from 
 a forced-Eli-throw-turned-interception, to 
 Saquon Barkley mysteriously being parked on the sideline, to bad fourth-down defense (SEE: 
 Nelson Agholor conversion), to not one but two defensive holds of 
 Odell Beckham Jr. going uncalled late on the same play. Even on New York's lateral-palooza at the end of the game, Beckham was blatantly tripped with no call. Sucks. 

Previous rank: No. 27

 Jameis Winston made the most of 
 his 88th chance Sunday, leading the Bucs to a blowout win versus the visiting 
 49ers. No turnovers from the much-maligned Winston, who spread the ball around to eight different receivers. Six of those players caught three or more, with 
 Mike Evans posting his second 100-yard game in as many weeks. The oft-overlooked Tampa WR1 also passed the 1,000-yard plateau for the fifth straight year, making him only the third receiver to ever pull off that trick in his first five NFL seasons, next to Randy Moss and 
 A.J. Green. Nice company, huh? 

Previous rank: No. 25

It was a tale of three games for the Jags on Sunday. There was surviving the initial Bills onslaught, as Josh Allen connected on a deep ball to put Buffalo up 14-zip that left Barry Church shaking his head in a how-is-this-happening-to-us manner. Then Jacksonville punched back, evening the score at 14-14 and playing like an outfit that wanted to be relevant in late December. Cool. Until Leonard Fournette *literally threw a punch* following the play that changed the game: after Donte Moncrief caught an apparent go-ahead touchdown, Fournette engaged in fisticuffs while Moncrief and Bills defender Levi Wallace grappled for the ball on the ground. The replay booth determined that the Jags receiver's butt hit the Ralph Wilson turf at the 1-yard line, and Fournette was ejected. Jacksonville's offense went in reverse, ultimately settling for a 43-yard field-goal attempt ... after being on the 1! Wide left.

 **Side note:** Put me in the camp that doesn't fault 
 fired offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett for this season's offensive follies. I see three reasons for Jacksonville's struggles: 1) Fournette has played in just five games, and is averaging 3.5 yards per carry even when he's been on the field. 2) Receivers haven't caught the ball (even when they did, they still dropped it). 3) 
 I'll let you guess. 

Previous rank: No. 29

The 49ers were in the game this past weekend against the Bucs -- until the defense fell apart in the third quarter. The Niners are sitting unpretty at 2-9, eyeing the prospect of picking near or at the highest rungs of the 2019 NFL Draft. Defense will probably be the order of the day in late April, between linebacker being a sudden need and the failure to get stops on third down in Tampa. The real issue for that side of the ball is the inability to produce takeaways. The Niners forced exactly zero from the Bucs (who have been turnover-stiles all year), marking the seventh time this season that San Francisco has failed to manufacture even one interception or fumble recovery.

Previous rank: No. 30

The Raiders suffered another loss -- but not without putting up a fight. The score (34-17) looks ugly, but Oakland took an early lead on the stingiest defense in pro football and was only down three late in the third quarter. That's precisely when the Raiders' defense failed to hold, allowing Baltimore QB Lamar Jackson to engineer a 17-play, 71-yard drive -- complete with four third-down conversions -- that took forever. Which is about how long this awful season is taking to run its course.

Previous rank: No. 31

The Jets were up 7-zip, feeling pretty good about themselves ... then got Gronked. Morris Claiborne lost that fight for the ball. Gang Green lost its fight to stay with the division bully in an attempt to salvage the season. If there were any suspense in the Jets' potential chase for .500, it's been suffocated, just like the hopes that New York would generate any kind of run game. Remember last month, when Isaiah Crowell and friends trucked the Broncos for over 300? Yeah, me neither. At least New York made up for it by allowing New England to put up over two hundy on the ground.

Previous rank: No. 32

The Cardinals were up 10-zip against the Chargers in the first quarter on Sunday. Should we just stop the blurb right there? Because that's about when Arizona quit playing. It's not often that you see a team jump out to a 10-0 lead, then allow 45 unanswered points. The Broncos pulled off a similarly ignominious feat in Super Bowl XXII, scratching out 10 points before Doug Williams threw the ball all over the park in a 42-10 Redskins win. Sound familiar? The Cards made a bad day on defense into a historic day for Philip Rivers, who started Sunday's game by throwing 25 consecutive passes that hit neither the ground nor any Arizona defenders. Cardinals fans on Twitter have called for the team to inhabit this spot -- and in some cases, 33rd or 34th. I understand their enthusiasm now.

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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