NFL Week 11 Power Rankings

Five Quick Hits

* Many of us travel during the holidays, and U.S. air travel has recently become incredibly invasive. Security need not and should not mean degrading invasions of privacy. Learn more at FlyWithDignity.org and WeWontFly.com, and ask your representative to co-sponsor HR 6416: The American Traveler Dignity Act. You can also sign a petition to investigate the TSA. Some links contain images of the TSA's new full-body scans, which may be NSFW.

* Pittsburgh was called for 14 penalties on Sunday, resulting in 163 yards and 5 first downs for the Raiders. The Steelers won by 32.

* NFL Network employs too many recent players and coaches. These guys have friends in the games they're commenting on, and most of them are openly biased. How can we trust what you say?

* Best sack percentage in the NFL: Peyton Manning (2.7%), Drew Brees (3.0), Tony Romo (3.2), Eli Manning (3.3), Shaun Hill (3.8).

* Worst: Jay Cutler (10.9%), Jason Campbell (10.8), David Garrard (8.9), Michael Vick (8.6), Matt Moore (8.3).

***

The Vikings have fired Brad Childress. I suppose it had to be done. But this is a coach who had a winning record (39-35), reached the NFC Championship Game last season, and got a contract extension in the offseason. But who needs a coach with that kind of track record?

Some people draw eerie parallels between the Lincoln and Kennedy assassinations. I do the same between the firings of Wade Phillips and Childress. Both coaches had winning records. Childress' Vikings were 1-2 in the postseason; Phillips was 1-2 in the postseason with Dallas. Both the Vikings and Cowboys are now 3-7. Both coaches led their teams to divisional titles and playoff wins in 2009, and both received contract extensions in the offseason. Both were fired after home losses to the Packers. Eerie, right?

Honestly, it's weird to see coaches fired like this. Mid-season firings aren't terribly common, especially for coaches coming off such successful seasons, and even more so when those coaches recently received contract extensions. Appearing on "SportsCenter," Steve Young spoke about the firing of Childress: "There's something very awkwardly wrong ... something's really amiss, and firing the head coach certainly is not going to fix that."

Look, I don't mean to beat this into the ground, but Brett Favre is just a huge issue here. He publicly butted heads with Childress, he's a constant distraction off the field, and his awful play is a huge part of the reason Minnesota is 3-7. If Favre had actually retired, I'm confident Chilly would still have a job. Favre had more authority on this team than Childress did, and when you have a player, rather than a coach, running the team, disaster is always imminent. This is particularly true when that player is moody, self-centered, and obsessed with his own image and legacy.

I don't mean to absolve Childress of all blame. Certainly, he didn't have a warm relationship with his players, and he never earned Favre's respect. But people said the same things about Tom Coughlin in 2006 and 2007 that they have about Childress this year. I think the Vikings were front-runners. Remember how they ran up the score on the Cowboys and Giants at the end of last season? But they couldn't deal with adversity themselves. After facing an incredibly weak schedule in 2009 and going virtually injury-free, they fell apart when not everything went their way this time around.

More on this in the Vikings section, but for now, on to the Week 11 power rankings. Brackets show previous rank.

1. Green Bay Packers [2] — Last year, people talked about Aaron Rodgers choking against Favre and the Vikings. Rodgers in four games against Favre: 95-of-143, 1,267 yards, 11 TD, 3 INT, 111.3 passer rating. Favre in those games: 74-of-126, 935 yards, 8 TD, 4 INT, 89.9 rating. After Week 10, some people had Green Bay ranked behind New Orleans. Both teams were 6-3, but the Packers had a much harder schedule (.444) than the Saints (.407) and had outscored their opponents by far more (+78) than the Saints (+50). If you're paying attention, I don't see how you get New Orleans ahead. The Packers have won four in a row and outscored their last three opponents by a combined total of 85-10, an average of 28-3. They'll be underdogs in Atlanta in Week 12, but no one has played better the last month. Green Bay leads the NFL in point differential (+106) by a margin of 5 touchdowns (Pittsburgh, +70).

2. Philadelphia Eagles [1] — In Week 7, the Titans beat them 37-19. Since then, Tennessee is 0-3 and the Eagles are 3-0. I've heard some analysts express the sentiment that Michael Vick should be the leading candidate for league MVP. Vick has played seven games. I will grant that he played very well, but Tom Brady and Drew Brees and Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers and Aaron Rodgers have each played 10 games, 43% more than Vick. I'm willing to consider the possibility that Vick has been more valuable, on a per-game basis, than those other quarterbacks, but not 43% more valuable. That's ridiculous.

3. New England Patriots [4] — Since the bye, five of their six opponents have scored at least 20 points. New England leads the NFL in scoring (28.9/game), but ranks 30th in total defense (398 yards/game) and 23rd in points allowed (24.2). Recently, the Patriots have me remembering the Falcons, Lions, and especially the Houston Oilers of the early '90s. Last week, when the Pats introduced their starting offense, it included four wide receivers. You know what that was called, right? The run-and-shoot. This offense faded from the NFL partly because teams that built their personnel around the run-and-shoot, emphasizing four-receiver sets, had trouble holding leads, as epitomized by The Comeback in the 1992 playoffs. On Sunday, New England did run effectively at times, but also nearly surrendered a 17-point fourth-quarter lead.

4. Atlanta Falcons [6] — Every week, Matt Ryan looks more like a top-tier quarterback. He averages 252 passing yards per game, with 18 TDs and 5 INTs this season. He also has a great sack percentage (3.8%), sixth-best in the NFL. I don't know if there's room in the Pro Bowl for Ryan this year (Brees, Rodgers, Vick), but he's really having a good year. The Falcons have won four in a row and eight of their last nine. The next two weeks offer serious challenges: Green Bay at home and the Buccaneers in Tampa.

5. Baltimore Ravens [7] — Ed Reed intercepted his 50th pass, and Ray Lewis his 30th, on the same weekend Tampa's Ronde Barber intercepted his 40th. Lewis became only the seventh linebacker to intercept at least 30 passes in the regular season. Baltimore is undefeated at home and .500 on the road. The good news: four of the six games left are in Baltimore. Billy Cundiff easily leads the league in touchbacks; 29 of his 51 kickoffs were down in the end zone.

6. Indianapolis Colts [3] — I've always liked Ryan Diem, the Colts' right tackle. I voted for him to make the Pro Bowl three times and I named him the most underrated tackle of the decade on my All-'00s Team. But Diem has become a real liability, routinely getting beat and drawing penalties. He's holding this offense back. The Colts are 6-4. In each of those four losses, they've been handled by an opposing RB: Arian Foster (231 yards), Maurice Jones-Drew (105), LeSean McCoy (95), and BenJarvus Green-Ellis (96). You beat the Colts by running, and/or intercepting Manning three times.

7. New Orleans Saints [9] — Three straight wins, all by double-digits, following their uninspired 4-3 start, which included losses to the 3-7 Browns and Cardinals. Pierre Thomas may not have a job waiting for him when he finally returns from injury. The team has played its best football with Christopher Ivory carrying the ball. Drew Brees has thrown more interceptions in the last six games (14) than he did all of last season (11).

8. Pittsburgh Steelers [10] — What's the difference between Pittsburgh's Mike Wallace and Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson? Basically nothing. Wallace is one year older, but has one less year of NFL experience. They both have 33 catches this season, Wallace for 759 yards and 8 TDs, Jackson for 652 and 5 TDs. Jackson also has 95 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground. They're both remarkably fast, and continuing to improve. Who would you rather have? Very tough call. Jackson is probably the safer bet, a little bit more of a known quantity, but I'll go with Wallace.

9. New York Jets [11] — Santonio Holmes has been a play-maker the last three weeks, averaging 6 receptions, 105 yards, and a touchdown. The Jets are eking out unimpressive victories, but they're 8-2, and Mark Sanchez is threatening to become a franchise QB. Last year, Sanchez averaged 163 passing yards per game, with 12 TDs and 20 interceptions. This season, he's at 231 yards a game and has twice as many TDs (15) as INTs (7), plus outstanding play with the game on the line. He's not an elite passer yet, but at the rate he's improving, he might be in 2011.

10. San Diego Chargers [13] — I'm getting a little tired of being told how good Philip Rivers is. He's terrific, probably the best QB in the NFL, but I dislike being told what to think. NFL pundits have spent the last 2½ seasons trying to convince everyone that Rivers was not a top-tier quarterback, that Manning, Brady, Favre, and maybe Brees stood head and shoulders above everyone else. Now, they have to work overtime to convince everyone that Rivers is in their league, that it's not some sacrilege to compare anyone to the Mighty Manning and the Bountiful Brady. Just tell it straight from the beginning. Rivers has been an elite QB, as good as anyone in the game, for almost three years now. It's a shame he has to be chasing a single-season passing record to finally get that recognition. Honestly, the yardage record just isn't that big a deal — or at least shouldn't be — in today's NFL. If Rivers doesn't break it this year, someone will get it next season, or the year after. It won't last in this passing environment, and the new record, whenever it's set, won't stand for 26 years.

11. New York Giants [5] — Began last season 5-0 before finishing 8-8, out of the playoff race. Under Tom Coughlin, the Giants are 41-15 (.732) in the first half of the season but 20-30 (.400) in the second half. It's hard to believe that's coincidence, though I'm not sure why the Giants invariably seem to fade in November and December. Turnovers continue to be a huge problem, and following a 3-interception, 2-fumble bonanza in Philadelphia, the Giants now lead the NFL with 30 turnovers. Hakeem Nicks, the team's leading receiver, reportedly will miss the next three weeks.

12. Oakland Raiders [12] — Pittsburgh's great run defense presented a bad matchup, the secondary got burned without Nnamdi Asomugha, and Oakland suffered through 6 sacks, 3 turnovers, and a 21-3 halftime deficit. The loss dropped Oakland to 1-4 on the road, though the team is 4-1 at home.

13. Tennessee Titans [8] — In a free-fall and could rank much lower than this. Following a 5-2 start that included double-digit wins over the Giants and Eagles, the Titans have lost three in a row and apparently will start third-string QB Rusty Smith next week. Kerry Collins is still nursing a leg injury, while Vince Young's situation seems more complicated. Young tore a flexor tendon in his thumb and has been placed on IR, but it seems that his behavior has rendered Young unwelcome regardless. Young had become a malcontent, and cutting ties with him may be necessary at this point, but Smith's play in Week 11 did not inspire confidence.

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers [16] — There were more shutouts in Week 11 (two) than in the previous 10 weeks combined (GB def. NYJ, 9-0). The Bucs contained Frank Gore (12 att, 23 yds), doubled their season sack total, and finished +2 in turnovers, with three defensive stops on fourth down. That'll win a lot of games.

15. Chicago Bears [17] — Brian Billick, following Jay Cutler's 16-of-25, 156 yard, 0 TD, 1 INT, 3 sack performance on Thursday night: "I've never seen a more useless number in my life than quarterback rating ... Jay Cutler at 64, you'd say that's bad. No, he had a good game today." Uh, no, he didn't. Just because the Dolphins dropped three potential interceptions and Cutler didn't screw up so badly that he blew a game in which his defense pitched a shutout does not mean he played well. The Bears scored only 1 touchdown, on a drive that featured 10 runs, including the score, and only three passes, one of them incomplete. NFL teams average 22.2 points per game. If the Dolphins had scored 22 on Thursday night, no one would have pretended that Cutler played well. Having a great defense does not make you a good quarterback. Kicker Robbie Gould did have a fine game, with 3 field goals, including a 50-yarder, and 2 touchbacks on kickoffs.

16. Kansas City Chiefs [20] — We can disagree over Todd Haley's decision not to shake Josh McDaniels' hand after he felt the Broncos ran up the score in Week 10, but I suspect he won the admiration of his team. Bill Cowher used to do that kind of thing, too, sticking up for his team and turning the heat on himself. Maybe the inspired Chiefs backed their coach's play on Sunday, or maybe a home game against the Cardinals was always a recipe for success. The Chiefs are 5-0 at Arrowhead, but 1-4 on the road. Matt Cassel is +14 in TD/INT differential, second-best in the NFL (behind Brady, +15, and tied with Rivers).

17. Washington Redskins [21] — Consistent point production: Washington has not scored more than 30 points or fewer than 10 in any game this season. Titans coach Jeff Fisher is a Buddy Ryan disciple, the defensive coordinator for the 1990 Eagles, so it's appropriate that Fisher oversaw an encore performance of the infamous body bag game, with eight Washington players injured during the game. Earlier injuries had already left Washington thin in the defensive backfield this weekend, and Nate Washington repeatedly beat Philip Buchanon, though Reed Doughty stepped in nicely for LaRon Landry.

18. Miami Dolphins [15] — With a third-string QB under center, they had 39 pass plays and handed off 7 times. QB Tyler Thigpen had as many rushing attempts (6) as Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams combined. The Bears had more rush attempts (40) than the Dolphins had rushing yards (39). Brian Urlacher said after the game, "We thought they'd try and run it; they didn't ... we thought they were gonna try and run it more. They didn't do it as much as we thought." Dolphins HC Tony Sparano defended the play-calling in his postgame press conference, but there's no excuse for that. Terrible coaching, plain and simple. Thigpen was a deer in headlights.

19. Jacksonville Jaguars [23] — Lead the AFC South, with a better division record than Indianapolis and a head-to-head victory in Week 4. The remaining schedule, though, is brutal — an 0-6 finish, while unlikely, is not out of the question. Four of the games are away, and none of the opponents are worse than 4-6. Maurice Jones-Drew has three straight 100-yard games.

20. Cleveland Browns [14] — Lost a pair of heart-breakers following back-to-back wins over the Saints and Pats. The Browns netted 6 turnovers against Jacksonville, but couldn't mount a consistent offense or turn field position into points. I'd like to see them upgrade the offensive line and receiving corps this offseason. Colt McCoy sprained his ankle this week, and it is unclear who will start at quarterback in Week 12.

21. Houston Texans [19] — Arian Foster became the first player to top 1,000 rushing yards this season, joined by Denver's Brandon Lloyd and Atlanta's Roddy White, both of whom are over 1,000 receiving. Five straight opponents have scored at least 29 points when facing the Texans. Astonishingly, they do not have the worst scoring defense in the NFL. The Arizona Cardinals have allowed 292 points this season, five more than Houston.

22. Dallas Cowboys [29] — Jon Kitna's career-high passer rating is 87.4, from his 2003 campaign with the Bengals. So far this season, at age 38, his rating is 89.7. The team has turned to a more run-oriented offense with Jason Garrett as head coach instead of offensive coordinator. The Cowboys host New Orleans on Thursday afternoon.

23. San Francisco 49ers [18] — Now 31st in scoring. There are five teams winless on the road this season, all in the NFC: the 49ers, Lions, Panthers, Rams, and Vikings. The good news is that San Francisco has plenty of time to correct that, with four road games remaining on the schedule. The bad news is that the 3-7 Niners have four road games remaining on the schedule.

24. St. Louis Rams [22] — Steven Jackson averaged five yards per rush against Atlanta, so naturally he carried 11 times and Sam Bradford threw 42. That's not a wild comeback attempt, either — the Rams didn't trail by more than 6 until the fourth quarter. That's bad coaching. The Rams rank 27th in yards per game and 28th in scoring. Maybe they would be higher if they put the ball in the hands of their best player (Jackson) instead of a QB who ranks 27th in passer rating.

25. Detroit Lions [24] — Worst road record in the NFL, 0-6. Other teams are also winless, but none who have already played six away games. The Lions have the early game this Thursday, hosting the Patriots, the first of three consecutive home games.

26. Seattle Seahawks [26] — This weekend, Marshawn Lynch had 7 carries, 4 catches, and 2 lost fumbles. Ahmad Bradshaw thinks you've got butterfingers, Marshawn. The Seahawks kicked two 20-yard field goals in this game. When you're playing a team that is better than you, it's just essential that you take some chances and make the most of opportunities. If you're at the 2-yard-line, you need a touchdown.

27. Buffalo Bills [30] — Two-game win streak following a trio of 3-point losses. The Bills are last in the NFL in field goals, with only 9 all season, less than one per game. This weekend, Rian Lindell missed his only field goal attempt (from 33 yards), but went 7/7 on extra points. Buffalo is tied for 14th in PATs.

28. Minnesota Vikings [25] — Why is everyone so convinced that Favre gives Minnesota the best chance to win? The Vikings are 3-7 and rank 30th in scoring. Favre leads the NFL in interceptions and ranks 32nd in passer rating. How much worse could Tarvaris Jackson realistically be? In 2008, Jackson passed for 9 TDs and 2 INTs, with a 95.4 passer rating. Unlike Favre, he's also a good scrambler, and he is not 300 years old (he's 27). People talk about this kid like he's a proven failure, just because he didn't light it up as a rookie. Look, not everyone can be Dan Marino. Why not see what you've got in Jackson? Let's be honest: Favre is easily the worst QB to start every game this season. He's been terrible (10 TD, 17 INT, 69.8 rating). The Vikings have nothing to gain by continuing to play him. If they play Jackson, they might improve, plus they can learn about their options for 2011 and beyond.

29. Denver Broncos [27] — I've written repeatedly that Champ Bailey is the most overrated player in the NFL. He's good, a legit Hall of Famer when his career is over. He's not among the top 10 cornerbacks of all time, but he's probably in the top 20. Being overrated is not the same as being bad, but this is a college star, first-round draft pick with a memorable name, who played well enough early in his career to get a good reputation and makes enough big plays that most pundits ignore his many bad ones. After Monday night's 35-14 beatdown, Stuart Scott declared, "Champ Bailey's just redunkulous. Matt, how does the future Hall of Famer get his 48th career pick?" Matt Millen replied, "He gets it because the ball hangs in the air. It's not some — he was beat. A better throw on that one would've been a big play." Story of Bailey's career.

30. Cincinnati Bengals [28] — Seven losses in a row, a streak that is likely to continue when they travel to New Meadowlands Stadium to face the Jets in the late game on Thursday. The Bengals overcame 2 Johnathan Joseph interceptions and a 124-yard rushing day from Cedric Benson to lose against Buffalo in Week 11. Cincinnati is now last in the NFL in sacks (10), with less than half the league average (22).

31. Arizona Cardinals [31] — In 2009, they were 14th in total offense and 11th in scoring. This season, they're 31st in total offense and 26th in scoring. Could they really be any worse with Matt Leinart?

32. Carolina Panthers [32] — The defense actually had a decent game against Baltimore, but this is shaping up to be one of the worst offensive teams in memory. Carolina ranks last by a wide margin in both yards and scoring. The second-worst offense averages 23 more yards and 4.3 points per game more than the Panthers.

Comments and Conversation

November 26, 2010

Anthony Brancato:

The top three RBs on Seattle’s depth chart are 5’11” 215, 5’8” 198, and 5’8” 203.

That probably has a lot to do with why the Seahawks attempted two 20-yard field goals.

November 27, 2010

Brad Oremland:

Emmitt Smith was listed at 5’9”, 207, and he’s the all-time leader in rushing TDs.

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