Tuesday, December 8, 2015
2015 NFL Week 13 Power Rankings
Week 13 Game Balls
Offense — Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks. Passed for three touchdowns and a 146.0 passer rating, ran for 51 yards and another touchdown.
Defense — Malcolm Jenkins, DB, Philadelphia Eagles. Two tackles for loss, and a 99-yard interception return for a touchdown. Credit also to Taylor Hart, who pressured Tom Brady into the interception.
Special Teams — Najee Goode, ST, Philadelphia Eagles. Two tackles and an assist on special teams, plus a touchdown return on a blocked punt.
Rookie — Marcus Peters, DB, Kansas City Chiefs. There's a good argument for Marcus Mariota (369 yards, 4 TDs), but he committed two turnovers, plus I've chosen an offensive rookie three weeks in a row. Peters had an outstanding game, including a forced fumble and a 58-yard interception return.
Honorable Mentions — QB Tyrod Taylor, LB Von Miller, RS Dwayne Harris
Cam Newton and Ben Roethlisberger played great, but performances against the Saints are ineligible for offensive game balls, and this week I extended that policy to also include the listless Colts. Facing a defense that had been on a serious roll, Taylor had 4 touchdowns and no turnovers. He's a worthy choice.
Five Quick Hits
* Favorite thing from Thursday night: incredible finish.
* Second-favorite: no color rush jerseys.
* You probably heard this: there were 8 missed extra points on Sunday, as many as the entire 2014 season. Furthermore, the Saints returned a blocked PAT to the end zone, for two points. Moving PATs back was a good idea; it's made the game more interesting.
* The Patriots and Jets are the only teams in the NFL with successful 1-point conversions on every touchdown this season.
* Several announcers messed up player names this weekend, but not just mispronunciation: at least three different announcers actually said the wrong name. For example, John Lynch called Cassius Marsh "Curtis Martin" two or three times.
Week 13 Rant: Officiating
I think there's broad agreement that the quality of officiating in the NFL has been subpar this season. There are multiple reasons for that, but I think the biggest problem is over-involvement. Penalties slow the game down, interrupt the action, and nullify plays we'd been excited about. A phantom penalty, when none should have been called, is far more frustrating than a missed penalty, which I think we're more understanding about.
There needs to be a standard of certainty: don't throw the flag on a maybe. A simple fix that leads to better games. And yes, penalties should be replay-reviewable.
2015 Week 13 NFL Power Rankings
Brackets show last week's rank.
1. Carolina Panthers  — In the first 73 games of Cam Newton's career, he never passed for 4 TDs in a game. Now he's thrown 5 TDs twice in three weeks. Kudos to FOX for the bonus coverage that allowed many viewers who saw Patriots/Eagles to watch the end of Panthers/Saints as well. Carolina had its worst defensive game of the year, and there were four fourth-quarter lead changes.
2. Kansas City Chiefs  — Missing their best defensive player (Justin Houston), they still intercepted Derek Carr a career-high 3 times. Missing their excellent rookie center Mitch Morse, they still scored 34. Allen Bailey hasn't played in a month. If the Chiefs get healthy for the playoffs, they're going to be really dangerous.
3. Arizona Cardinals  — Outgained the Rams by over 300 yards, 524-212. The Cardinals lead the NFL in yards and scoring, and they have the best point differential in the NFL (+150). They're on a six-game win streak, including victories over the Bengals and Seahawks.
4. Cincinnati Bengals  — Back-to-back games scoring over 30 points and allowing under 10. They lead the NFL in fewest points allowed.
5. Seattle Seahawks  — Lead the NFL in rushing. They have three players over 400 rushing yards. Seattle also ranks 7th in total yardage, 8th in scoring, and top-five in every major defensive category. They out-gained Minnesota 433-125 and won 38-7. Remember when they were 0-2 and the sky was falling?
6. Pittsburgh Steelers  — Fourth consecutive game scoring at least 30 points. They fumbled away their first two possessions, but rallied for 522 yards and 45 points. The defense did its job, too, holding Indianapolis to 11 first downs and 1/6 in the red zone. Yeah, the Colts had six red zone possessions and only scored 10 points.
7. Denver Broncos  — Facing an unimposing Charger defense, they scored one offensive touchdown and the fewest points San Diego had allowed all year. With Peyton Manning, the Broncos averaged 22.8 points per game. In three starts with Brock Osweiler, 21.3. The notion that Osweiler revitalizes this offense probably is not accurate.
Lowest percentage of touchdowns scored by the offense:
1. Broncos, 79%
t2. Eagles, 82%
t2. Giants, 82%
4. Vikings, 83%
5. Washington, 85%
That's partly good defense and special teams, but it's also offense that isn't finding the end zone.
8. New England Patriots  — Other than a meaningless Week 17 loss in which they rested their starters, this was the Patriots' first defeat at home since the 2012 season, a stretch of 24 consecutive victories. Three of their remaining four games are on the road.
The narrative is that they lost because Rob Gronkowski was out. Of course they missed Gronk, but the Patriots amassed 27 first downs, 427 yards, and 28 points, their most since October. The Patriots didn't lose because Gronkowski was injured, they lost because they allowed 35 points. The Eagles rushed for 128 yards, Sam Bradford had a 99.3 passer rating, and Philadelphia scored 2 special teams touchdowns.
9. Buffalo Bills  — Only home game in the middle of an unfair schedule: from Weeks 10-15, the Bills have one home game (the one they just played) and five road games. Seriously, schedule-makers? Five out of six games away?
10. Houston Texans  — Ten accepted penalties, nine of them on offense (5) or special teams (4). The offense kept getting into 2nd-and-long because of penalties. And how do you get called for Ineligible Downfield on three punts in one game?
11. Chicago Bears  — Dropped to 1-5 at home. They outplayed the 49ers, but Robbie Gould missed two easy field goals (40 yards and 36), Jay Cutler threw a pick-six, and they gave up a 71-yard TD pass in overtime. Eddie Goldman had a nice game, with two sacks and a blocked extra point.
12. Green Bay Packers  — That was the longest game-ending Hail Mary in NFL history, and one of the greatest finishes I've seen in my life. But NFL Network threw some cold water on Packer optimism after the game.
MARSHALL FAULK: "Those receivers..."
MICHAEL IRVIN: "They can't get open."
FAULK: "Richard Rodgers was the only one getting open."
STEVE MARIUCCI: "Eight catches."
FAULK: "8 targets, 8 catches, he was the only guy. And the drops by Adams, I don't know what's going on with him. Something's wrong with the receivers [from] tonight."
RICH EISEN: "Marshall, where's Eddie Lacy? What happened?"
MOOCH: "It's not just the receivers."
EISEN: "Six touches, one yard."
MOOCH: "The leading rusher's Aaron Rodgers, and Crockett, the new guy, is second-leading rusher. You've got Starks and Eddie Lacy with 19 yards combined."
FAULK: "Yeah, Starks has a cold, can't stop fumbling the ball, Eddie Lacy can't get on the field."
The Packers got a big win — an exciting, thrilling, unbelievable win — but they still have a lot of problems.
13. Detroit Lions  — Tweet from Shane Battier: "Well, that pretty much sums up 30 years of being a Lions fan."
14. New York Jets  — Darrelle Revis missed his second straight game. Last week, Jarvis Landry had 165 yards and a touchdown. This week, Odell Beckham had 149 yards and a touchdown.
The Jets countered with Brandon Marshall, who caught 12 of 13 targets, for 131 yards and a TD. Marshall went over 1,000 yards, giving him 1,000-yard seasons with four different teams, and five different quarterbacks: Jay Cutler, Kyle Orton, Chad Henne, Matt Moore, and Ryan Fitzpatrick.
15. Minnesota Vikings  — Linval Joseph didn't play, plus Anthony Barr and Harrison Smith left early with injuries. Missing three of their best defensive players, the Vikings allowed a season-high 38 points. But Minnesota's defense isn't the problem. The Vikings' only score came on a kickoff return; the offense got shut out (9 first downs, 125 yards, no points). They're one of only five teams to average under 20 points per game.
Their 8-4 record is impressive, but only one of those 8 wins came against an opponent who has a winning record (KC in Week 6).
16. Indianapolis Colts  — The way the played, they wouldn't have beaten anyone. How can a team play so flat? In an important game, and on national television, no less? They got dominated in every phase of the game.
17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers  — Playing without their two best defensive linemen (Gerald McCoy and Jacquies Smith), they still forced three sacks and an interception. The Bucs have won three of their last four.
18. Washington  — It is absolutely incredible that running backwards on that punt return wasn't even the dumbest play of DeSean Jackson's career. Dude's got talent, but something is wrong with his brain.
In the first eight games, Kirk Cousins got sacked nine times. In the last four games, he's taken 12 sacks. His sack percentage, through the New England game, was 2.8%. In the four games since, his sack percentage is 8.7%, and his season average is up to 4.5%. It's not the offensive line, he's just not getting rid of the ball. I think he's gun-shy, scared of throwing interceptions. I think the most successful NFL quarterbacks have a rare combination of talent and fearlessness — not just fear of getting hit, but fear of looking stupid, or getting benched. Washington can win the NFC East even if Cousins has a two- or three-INT game every once in a while. They can't win if he won't take some chances with the ball.
19. New York Giants  — It's lazy and mean-spirited to blame Tom Coughlin. Going for the touchdown was a tenable decision. There are nine minutes left and you're only up by 10 points. Does a field goal increase your odds of winning? Of course, but not by very much. There's too much time left, and two touchdowns still beats you. Plus, even if you don't make the first down, you leave the Jets pinned at their own 4-yard line — as long as your QB doesn't throw a careless interception, his fourth red zone INT of the season. You think going for it was a stupid decision? You're wrong.
20. Oakland Raiders  — Had a fourth-quarter lead, then this happened: interception, interception, missed field goal, interception, turnover on downs. All three interceptions led to Kansas City TDs. It was the first 3-INT game of Derek Carr's career, and it was a little flukey. This was actually the best the Raiders have looked in a month.
21. Dallas Cowboys  — First win without Tony Romo. They lost three fumbles and dropped to -14 in turnover differential. Baltimore is next-worst, -11. But their defense is playing well, holding the opponent under 17 points for the third time in the last four games.
22. Miami Dolphins  — Won with defense: their offense is terrible. Ryan Tannehill had 82 net passing yards, and they only scored on one of their 12 possessions. They had nine punts, a lost fumble, and they ran out the clock at the end of the first half, plus one lonely touchdown — a 38-yard first-play strike after an interception gave them good field position.
23. Philadelphia Eagles  — Three return TDs: a blocked punt, an interception, and a punt return. They're tied for the lead in the miserable NFC East, and their next three games are all at home.
24. San Francisco 49ers  — First road win since November 16, 2014.
25. Tennessee Titans  — First home win since October 12, 2014.
26. San Diego Chargers  — The Chargers, Titans, and Browns are the only teams mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. Everyone in the NFC is still alive, technically.
27. Jacksonville Jaguars  — Scored 6 touchdowns, missed three extra points, and lost 42-39.
28. New Orleans Saints  — This team is terrible, but Drew Brees is amazing. Throwing to Brandin Cooks and a bunch of pretty random guys, he led the Saints to 38 points against an undefeated opponent who hadn't allowed 30 all season.
29. Atlanta Falcons  — Swept by Tampa Bay for the first time since 2007, before Matt Ryan was drafted, and fell behind in the all-time series, 23-22.
30. Baltimore Ravens  — Justin Tucker can't save them this year. Tucker is 2-of-8 from 50 yards and beyond. Tucker missed a 55-yarder this week, and Baltimore lost by 2.
31. St. Louis Rams  — On November 1st, they were 4-3, including wins over the Seahawks and Cardinals. Now they're 4-8, and they've lost three of their last four by 24 points apiece. They fired offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti, which I guess can't hurt.
32. Cleveland Browns  — Seventh loss in a row, and they don't just lose, they routinely get blown out. Cleveland has the worst point differential in the league, -131. The 49ers are the only other team under -100.