NFL Week 13 Power Rankings
December 7, 2010 by Brad Oremland • Print Story •
Five Quick Hits
* Teams mathematically eliminated from postseason contention: Bengals, Bills, Broncos, Cowboys, Lions, and Panthers. Theoretically, the 3-9 Cardinals could still win the NFC West.
* Weather started having a major impact on games this weekend, with temperatures below 40° in most outdoor stadiums, and strong winds that affected kicking and passing. Home field is more important than ever at this time of year.
* Most humiliating loss each week: (1) SEA over SF 31-6, (2) ATL over ARI 41-7, (3) PHI over JAC 28-3, (4) SD over ARI 41-10, (5) DET over STL 44-6, (6) NO over TB 31-6, (7) OAK over DEN 59-14, (8) OAK over SEA 33-3, (9) GB over DAL 45-7, (10) PHI over WAS 59-28, (11) GB over MIN 31-3, (12) SF over ARI 27-6, (13) NE over NYJ 45-3. There are some doozies in there.
* Longtime Packer receiver Donald Driver had the highlight of the week, breaking at least four tackles on a 61-yard touchdown reception.
* I think Elvis Dumervil's season-ending injury just cost Josh McDaniels a job. Well, that's fair.
I often use the beginning of this column to discuss NFL announcers and analysts. When I do, I generally intend less to criticize, demean, or mock those announcers and analysts than I do to correct bad ideas, to identify misinformation they have intentionally or unintentionally led their audience to believe. I generally like NBC's Sunday night booth. Al Michaels is a professional play-by-play man, and Cris Collinsworth sometimes makes very good points, noticing things I never would have picked up. He's also willing to criticize players and coaches, which I appreciate. If you can't be candid, you're deliberately concealing information from your audience, and that makes you untrustworthy.
Unfortunately, Michaels and Collinsworth are sometimes less than totally trustworthy for other reasons. Collinsworth said before the Sunday night game that Joe Flacco had been playing as well over the last five or six weeks as anyone in the NFL. Did that strike anyone else as, well, not true? I live in a television market that (for reasons beyond my understanding) shows a lot of Baltimore games, so I've seen most of Flacco's performances during that time, and I can say with confidence that there's no way Flacco has played as well recently as Michael Vick or Philip Rivers. I realize we can't measure this sort of thing exclusively with stats, but I decided to look it up. From Weeks 7-12:
Tom Brady: 124-190, 1500 yds, 13 TD, 0 INT, 112.2 rating, 5-1 record
Matt Cassel: 117-188, 1456 yds, 15 TD, 1 INT, 110.6 rating, 4-2 record
Michael Vick: 112-172, 1444 yds, 9 TD, 2 INT, 103.9 rating, 4-1 record
Aaron Rodgers: 111-168, 1399 yds, 10 TD, 2 INT, 106.7 rating, 4-1 record
Philip Rivers: 112-156, 1354 yds, 11 TD, 4 INT, 110.9 rating, 4-1 record
Joe Flacco: 107-160, 1321 yds, 11 TD, 2 INT, 109.9 rating, 4-1 record
Matt Ryan: 130-186, 1300 yds, 10 TD, 1 INT, 105.1 rating, 5-0 record
Vick's numbers include the Week 13 Thursday night game, for what that's worth. Flacco comes out better than I expected, really. But you could easily argue that Flacco was the seventh-best quarterback in the league during that period. We can point out that he's played well without stretching the truth.
Near the end of the third quarter, Michaels and Collinsworth went into a prolonged ecstasy over Ray Lewis after he made an assist on a tackle. They didn't even mention Brandon McKinney, the other Raven involved. This sort of crap sickens me. Yes, Lewis is a great player, but he just made a routine play, and he didn't even do it by himself. If you're going to write Lewis a damn poem, the least you can do is mention that McKinney was in on the play, too.
I also wish announcers would more consistently acknowledge when they're wrong. Fourth quarter, 4:00 left, Baltimore's up 10-7. Collinsworth complains that the Ravens should be passing, that their run game has been ineffective all night. That's true, but Pittsburgh's offense hasn't done anything, either. Why not see what you can do on the ground, and even if you have to punt, you run two minutes off the clock and give the Steelers 80 yards to go? Well, Baltimore passes, and :40 later, Flacco gets sacked. He fumbles, Pittsburgh takes over at the 9-yard line and scores a game-winning touchdown. Here's where you admit, at least jokingly, that following your advice probably just cost them the game. Nothing.
All I'm asking for is accuracy and accountability. That should be a minimum standard for a professional broadcast. That's not unreasonable, is it? Okay, lecture's over for now. Brackets indicate last week's rank.
1. New England Patriots  — Masterful gameplan and execution. Forget the three sacks: Brady was never under pressure. The Patriots consistently made the right adjustments and play-calls for New York's defense. Facing one of the premier defenses in the NFL, the Pats put together two 90-yard TD drives and for the second week in a row hung 45 on the scoreboard. Over the last month, New England has averaged 40 points per game. If there's a concern, it's the defense, which looked great against the Jets, but had allowed the most yardage in the NFL as we entered the week. Just before halftime, Ron Jaworski gushed, "This Patriot defense is just outstanding." But it isn't. That's the last-ranked defense in the league he was talking about, and while it's certainly better than the numbers show, it's not an elite unit and probably won't look that good again for the rest of the season. The Patriots face a serious challenge next week on the road against Chicago.
2. Atlanta Falcons  — Is this the best Falcons team in history? In 1998, Atlanta finished 14-2 and reached the Super Bowl, but that has always been perceived as something of a fluke team, weaker than the 15-1 Minnesota squad it upset in the NFC Championship Game and without staying power. This year's Falcons have won six in a row and met every challenge, proving they can beat a good team on the road. Since the bye, Atlanta is 5-0 against opponents with a combined record of 36-24 (.600), every opponent at or above .500. Brent Grimes, who made the game-clinching interception, was credited with 6 passes defensed against Tampa Bay, one of the highest single-game marks I've ever seen. Grimes is second in the NFL, with 21 on the season.
3. Green Bay Packers  — Why are so few people discussing Aaron Rodgers as a serious MVP candidate? He's among the NFL's top five in passing yards, passing TDs, TD/INT differential, and passer rating. The only other player in the top five of all those categories is Philip Rivers. Rodgers is also one of the best running QBs in the league, with 284 yards, 4 TDs, and a 5.4 average. Yeah, he's backed up by a good defense. He has no running game, his offensive line is just okay, and he's played a tough schedule, but Rodgers is making household names out of James Jones and Jordy Nelson.
4. Philadelphia Eagles  — Now the No. 1 offense in the NFL, averaging over 400 yards a game. Since the bye, Philadelphia has scored 26, 59, 27, 26, and 34 points, an average of 34.4 per game. Twice this season I've singled out Asante Samuel (who missed his second game in a row) and Trent Cole as the two standouts on the Philadelphia defense. When I did my Pro Bowl voting last week, I realized I keep forgetting to mention strong safety Quintin Mikell. He doesn't post gaudy INT stats like Samuel, and he's not a sack demon like Cole, but he's always around the ball. Against Houston, Mikell led the Eagles with 7 solo tackles and 2 passes defensed.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers  — A big win against a good team, but not a great game for the Steelers. They were held to 15 points or less for the fourth time this season, unable to run effectively (2.3 yds/att) and inconsistent passing the ball (29% third down conversions). Bryant McFadden was repeatedly victimized, and against teams with better pass protection than Baltimore, the Steelers could be vulnerable in the secondary. The injury-ravaged offensive line was a disaster in the second half, barely able even to slow down Terrell Suggs, much less stop him. Heath Miller also left the game, with a concussion that looked serious enough to keep him out next week, and Ben Roethlisberger played most of the game with a gruesome broken nose, plus punter Daniel Sepulveda will miss the rest of the season.
6. Baltimore Ravens  — Outplayed and outcoached on Sunday night. Pittsburgh's defensive line dictated throughout the game. The Ravens couldn't run, and they couldn't protect Flacco, who was sacked 4 times and hit 4 more. The defense played well, did its job, but Baltimore hemorrhaged timeouts in the second half, and committed several key penalties. In the first quarter, a penalty on a fake punt led John Harbaugh to visibly use a very naughty word at least twice, though he seemed more sad than angry. Equally painful penalties turned bad situations for the Steeler offense into first downs, a nullified sack on 3rd-and-3 and offsides on 4th-and-1. You can't make mistakes like that against good teams.
7. New Orleans Saints  — The current records of New Orleans' 2010 opponents: 1-11, 1-11, 2-10, 3-9, 4-8, 4-8, 5-7, 5-7, 6-6, 7-5, 9-3, 10-2. The Saints are 9-3, they've won five in a row, and they're in the top 10 in both offense and defense. They're a good team. But when you've only faced three opponents with winning records, you're supposed to be 9-3. That's called beating the teams you're supposed to. It makes you nervous when they need a last-minute comeback to avoid breaking the Bengals' eight-game losing streak. New Orleans was 1/8 on third downs this weekend and committed 11 penalties for 100 yards. Maybe it was just one of those games, but if the Saints play that way the rest of the season, they're going to finish 10-6, and they could miss the playoffs.
8. Chicago Bears  — Since the bye, Chicago is 5-0. Over that stretch, Jay Cutler has 10 TDs, 3 INTs, and a 104.3 passer rating. That's against opponents who are 23-37 (.383). The remaining opponents are 32-16 (.667). If the Bears can split those last four games, they'll finish 11-5 and make the playoffs. If they drop more than that, they still might get in, but it will be obvious that they aren't serious Super Bowl contenders.
9. San Diego Chargers  — Each of the last two seasons, I've counted them out of the playoffs before they rebounded to win the division. Things look grim, certainly, but it's not over. The remaining schedule is not imposing (.354), so San Diego could run the table and end up 10-6. If that happens, and the Chiefs lose one of their other three games, San Diego wins the AFC West. If Kansas City goes 3-1 down the stretch or the Chargers lose again, however, it's probably over. They're two games behind the Ravens, one behind Jacksonville, and tied with the Raiders and Colts.
10. New York Giants  — Three of the last four games are on the road, but the most important, against the Eagles, is at home. New York's defensive line dominated Washington's blockers throughout the game on Sunday, and the Giants forced a season-high 6 turnovers. It probably wasn't quite as dominant a defensive performance as the Week 4 massacre of Chicago, but it was pretty close. Jason Pierre-Paul reminds me of Justin Tuck in 2007.
11. Kansas City Chiefs  — This is incredible: it is totally plausible that Kansas City could complete the season without facing anyone who ends up with a winning record. Let's do this like we did with the Saints: 2-10, 3-9, 3-9, 3-9, 4-8, 5-7, 5-7, 6-6, 6-6, 6-6, 6-6, 7-5. That's a combined record of 56-88 (.389), highlighted by the 7-5 Jacksonville Jaguars. A Week 14 win in San Diego would probably guarantee the Chiefs a playoff spot. Mathematically, not yet, but realistically, yeah.
12. New York Jets  — They beat the Patriots in Week 2. Since then, what's the best game they've played? When, in the last month, have they really looked like a top-10 team? Mark Sanchez has been awful the last two weeks. He finished the Monday nighter with a passer rating of 27.8. In the Jets' wins, his rating is a respectable 88.4, but in the losses, 40.8. Here's his line for those games: 43-92, 494 yds, 0 TD, 5 INT. The Jets' vaunted defense got owned on Monday night, but any defense will look worse than it really is when the offense keeps turning it over.
13. Oakland Raiders  — I never thought I would say this about a punter, but Shane Lechler might be the most overrated player in the NFL. Dan Fouts this weekend called him better than Ray Guy. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, as the Raiders were about to punt from their own 39, Jim Nantz opined of Lechler, "He's had another stellar day." Lechler obligingly bombed the kick 61 yards, into the end zone for a touchback. In the first quarter of the Steelers/Ravens game, Pittsburgh's Daniel Sepulveda punted from the Ravens' 36, with a fair catch at the 8. Which was better, Lechler's 61-yard missile or Sepulveda's 28-yard rainbow? Give me Sepulveda's. A 41-yard net when you've got the whole field to work with? Any punter in the league can do that, dime a dozen. Pinning the opponent inside the 10? That helps your team.
14. Dallas Cowboys  — Lost Dez Bryant with a fractured ankle. Rookie linebacker Sean Lee, who has never started a game in the NFL, intercepted two Peyton Manning passes, one for a touchdown on the return and the other to set up a game-winning score in overtime. Tashard Choice, who should really be starting for somebody, carried 19 times for 100 yards and a touchdown. It's a mystery to me why no one has sent Dallas a pair of third-round draft picks to lock him up, but I'm equally mystified that the Cowboys feel Choice is best suited to warming their bench. He's a talented runner.
15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers  — There's no such thing as a "good loss" when you're fighting for a playoff spot, but Tampa's defeat on Sunday wasn't the kind that makes anyone think you're a bad team. In fact, it's probably the kind that confirms you're a pretty good team. The Bucs intercepted Matt Ryan twice, holding him to a season-low passer rating and just 205 yards. The next three games are against teams with a combined record of 13-23. Tampa should win all of them, and probably has to in order to qualify for the postseason. No one's getting a wild card at 9-7 this season. CB Aqib Talib and C Jeff Faine will miss the remainder of the season.
16. Indianapolis Colts  — At this time last season, the Colts were 12-0. This year, they're 6-6. Maybe they should always play from behind. When Peyton Manning stepped onto the field, down 35-28, with 2:34 left, I never doubted that Indianapolis would tie the game. His comebacks are barely even dramatic any more; the clock never seems to be a factor. But in overtime, Reggie Wayne (who had his best game of the season) dropped a first down pass, Manning threw an interception, and the Colts lost. Teams that win the overtime coin toss are 6-10 this season. This obviously doesn't apply in domes, but it's incredible, shameful, that coaches get fired for taking the wind.
17. Jacksonville Jaguars  — Best record in the AFC South, worst point differential (-43). The Jags have won four of their last five games, and none of their remaining opponents are above .500. It's time to stop assuming that the Colts will win the division; the Jags have a real chance, even if Indy wins the rematch in Week 15. Maurice Jones-Drew rushed for a career-high 186 yards this week, going over 1,000 for the second time in his career.
18. Cleveland Browns  — Punted on their first five possessions, but made fewer mistakes than Miami. Shaun Rogers had his best game of the season, with a sack and a blocked field goal, the 14th of his career. The Browns have won four of their last six, but rumor says the team is still looking to fire Eric Mangini. That makes no sense to me. I think he's done a good job, and the club is showing improvement. The only major complaint is that Jake Delhomme is allowed to take the field. He's so much worse, so obviously worse than Seneca Wallace that I can't help wondering if race plays a role in the decision. It still amazes me that in 2010, we have a grand total of five black quarterbacks starting in the NFL.
19. Houston Texans  — Before the Thursday night game, NFL Network's Sterling Sharpe said of Andre Johnson that he now has "eight straight seasons of 60 catches or more. Let me tell you something: no one, not even Jerry Rice, the Hall of Famer Michael Irvin, or yours truly has ever been able to do that." Forget for a moment that Sharpe apparently regards Rice and Michael Irvin as the gold standard for receivers, and that he groups himself, who only played seven seasons in the first place, among them. Here is a list of players who have at least eight straight seasons of 60 catches or more in the NFL: Tim Brown, Cris Carter, Tony Gonzalez, Marvin Harrison, Torry Holt, Michael Irvin, Andre Johnson, Derrick Mason, Keenan McCardell, Eric Moulds, Terrell Owens, Jerry Rice, Rod Smith, Hines Ward, Reggie Wayne. That's 14 people besides Johnson, including two whom Sterling went out of his way to claim had not done so. The quote is word for word, including the emphasis. He shouted the words "NO ONE" — really emphasized them. I can't imagine what led him to make such a claim, but it is in every way untrue.
20. Miami Dolphins  — Awful game from Chad Henne, his second triple-INT performance this season and probably the worst game of his career. The Dolphins are last in the AFC in scoring, despite the continuing heroics of Dan Carpenter, who this week kicked a 60-yard field goal, making him just the eighth player in NFL history to connect from at least 60 yards. The others were Tom Dempsey (NO), Steve Cox (CLE), Morten Andersen (NO), Jason Elam (DEN), Matt Bryant (TB), Rob Bironas (TEN), and Sebastian Janikowski (OAK).
21. Minnesota Vikings  — So much for Adrian Peterson's sprained ankle. I realize Buffalo doesn't have the most imposing defense in the league, but after 107 yards with a 6.7 average and 3 TDs, I think All Day is in pretty good shape. The Vikings have now won consecutive games for the first time all season. The offense performed well in the absences of Steve Hutchinson and Percy Harvin, but this win was driven more by the defense, which got five takeaways and didn't allow a score until there was less than five minutes left. Minnesota is 4-2 at home, 1-5 away.
22. St. Louis Rams  — Two wins in a row, knocking off the Cardinals and Broncos. Next week, they play Utah State. Steven Jackson rushed for over 100 yards and Josh Brown kicked four field goals, including a 52-yarder, in the victory over Arizona. The Cardinals went 1/11 on third downs, with Fred Robbins (2 sacks) and Craig Dahl having particularly good games for the St. Louis defense. Dahl was credited with a team-leading 7 solo tackles, including 3 for a loss, 1 sack and an interception. The Rams have a moderately tough remaining schedule, and I suspect they'll finish 7-9.
23. Seattle Seahawks  — A long kick return, three Marshawn Lynch touchdowns, and Carolina's abysmal offense offset Matt Hasselbeck's poor day, and Seattle kept pace in the dog-eat-dog NFC West. Leon Washington, on his 84-yard punt return, was tackled at the 2-yard line by Jason Baker. How on earth does someone as fast as Leon Washington get run down by the punter? Weak. Washington also had a 3-yard kickoff return following a muff and got sacked attempting a pass. The Seahawks have a moderately tough remaining schedule, and I suspect they'll finish 7-9. If I had to bet, I'd say the Rams are a little more likely to end the season at .500 than Seattle.
24. San Francisco 49ers  — From Weeks 8-12, Vernon Davis totaled 126 receiving yards, with no touchdowns. This week, in one game, he had 126 receiving yards and a score, 65% of San Francisco's total receiving yardage. If you saw that coming, I want you to run my fantasy team, because this week I benched Davis and started Todd Heap, who got hurt on the first play and missed the whole game, netting me a zero while Davis exploded. The Niners have now lost as many games as they did all of last season.
25. Buffalo Bills  — The Bills are obviously a bad team. They're 2-10, they have the worst point differential in the AFC (-90), they can't play defense, and they lost four fumbles this weekend. They're bad. But if the Bills were in the NFC West, playing an NFC West schedule, might they win the division?
26. Washington Redskins  — Utterly vanquished against the Giants, looked like they'd quit by the end of the first quarter. This is probably the worst season of Donovan McNabb's career, and yet he might be the best player on this offense. Washington's offensive line is below average at every position, downright untenable wherever Stephon Heyer plays. McNabb was hit 10 times on Sunday. As many holes as this team has, offensive line has got to be the top priority in the offseason. First or second draft pick, a couple of free agents, that sort of thing. They don't need stars, just guys who can play. A standout nose tackle could do wonders for the defense.
27. Detroit Lions  — The Lions are 2-10. Six of those losses are by less than a touchdown, and seven of them came against teams that are 8-4 or better. Detroit is not a terrible team, but it has simply got to start winning some of these close games. Cliff Avril sacked Jay Cutler three times in Week 13.
28. Tennessee Titans  — Time of possession was 20:06, in a 60-minute game. The Titans have sunk to 30th in yards per game, and have been held below 20 points in each of the last four weeks. They led the NFL in scoring as recently as Week 8; now they're 16th. Chris Johnson can still meet his goal of 2,500 rushing yards if he averages 369 per game over the last month.
29. Denver Broncos  — The defense finally had a good week, Knowshon Moreno played the game of his life, and ... the passing game fell apart. Now running backs coach Eric Studesville replaces Josh McDaniels as HC. This is stupid. I hate firing coaches midseason, and this is the third time in the last month. McDaniels was head coach for 28 games. If someone was good enough to hire in the first place, he deserves at least three years to assemble the team he wants and prove himself. McDaniels went 11-17 in Denver. You know how Bill Belichick started out in New England? 12-16. Andy Reid in Philadelphia? 13-15. McDaniels made plenty of mistakes, but he was upfront about what he was trying to do, and 1½ years wasn't long enough for him to accomplish it.
For what it's worth, here are teams who are 11-17 or worse since McDaniels took over in Denver: Bills, Broncos, Browns, Bucs, Lions, Panthers, Raiders, Rams, Seahawks, and Washington. For being the 10th-worst team, he gets a pink slip after a season and a half? I don't get it. Is this coach-chasing, an owner who's convinced that Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden will come save his team, if only he can get a four-week head start? Is it the cynical notion that the coach doesn't really matter, that this is helpful from a P.R. standpoint? Plain idiocy, assuming that a coach who doesn't win right away never will?
Maybe it's just buyer's remorse, an owner who had complete trust in McDaniels for about five minutes, until he started trading away players and drawing small fines. The $50k for Spygate II represents less than 1% of what the Broncos will pay McDaniels not to coach out the remainder of his contract. The most controversial trades, Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall, now look like steals for Denver. Cutler is inconsistent, unreliable, and while he might improve in the future, right now he's a below-average QB. Getting Kyle Orton and a pair of first-round draft picks for him may be one of the greatest trades of all time. Marshall was a problem in the locker room, and he so far has been a major disappointment in Miami. It was a risky trade, but getting two second-rounders out of Marshall now looks pretty smart. Fine, they should have held on to Peyton Hillis. I just don't see how you justify this firing.
30. Cincinnati Bengals  — The last time Cincinnati lost nine games in a row was 1998. Bruce Coslet was the head coach, and Dick LeBeau was defensive coordinator. Neil O'Donnell was the QB, with Corey Dillon at RB and Carl Pickens the top receiver. Takeo Spikes was the team's top draft choice. The '98 Bengals went 3-13 and had the worst defense in the NFL. The team went 16-48 the next four years.
31. Arizona Cardinals  — Remember way back in 2009, when this was a good offensive team? This year, the Cardinals are 31st in points for and dead last in points against, with an overall deficit of 138. This is probably the worst Cardinal team since 2003, when the club went 4-12 and got outscored 452-225. That poor finish allowed them to draft Larry Fitzgerald. There's your silver lining.
32. Carolina Panthers  — Steve Smith this week caught his longest pass of the season, 39 yards. Baker showed some speed running down Leon Washington. Maybe they can play him across from Smith. It has to be an upgrade over Brandon LaFell and David Clowney, right?