Tuesday, November 8, 2016

2016 NFL Week 9 Power Rankings

By Brad Oremland

Week 9 Game Balls

Offense — Melvin Gordon, RB, San Diego Chargers. Rushed for 196 yards, caught 4-of-4 targets for another 65 yards, scored a TD, and broke multiple tackles to seal the game and run out the clock.

Defense — Thomas Davis, LB, Carolina Panthers. Ten tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, and a diving interception.

Special Teams — Matt Prater, K, Detroit Lions. Made a 53-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, then a last-second 58-yard field goal to force overtime.

Rookie — Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys. Gained 267 total yards, with a 141.8 passer rating and no sacks or interceptions. Dallas won 35-10 and spent most of the fourth quarter running out the clock, or he could have done even more.

Honorable Mentions — RB Mark Ingram, DB Brandon Flowers, KR Jordan Todman

Five Quick Hits

* Congratulations, at long last, to the World Series Champion Chicago Cubs.

* NFL Players of the Month for October: Tom Brady, Lorenzo Alexander, Adam Vinatieri (AFC); David Johnson, Cliff Avril, Matt Bryant (NFC).

* Kevin Turner, who played running back for the Patriots and Eagles in the '90s, had "unprecedented" CTE when he died at age 46.

* I agree with Al Michaels about icing the kicker: it's time to ban calling a timeout when the snap is imminent. It's rude and unsportsmanlike, it's a waste of time, there's no evidence it works, and it sucks drama out of the game. Field goals need all the drama they can get.

* Today is Election Day in the United States. Please vote.

This is an NFL column, so I don't want to get bogged down in politics. But I know that a lot of people are really dissatisfied with both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as the leading candidates for president. And in most states, there's no reason to vote for a candidate you don't like (the lesser of two evils). In U.S. presidential elections, candidates win states, and only about a dozen are what we call "swing states", the ones where some people might vote for a candidate they dislike just because they find the alternative unacceptable.

If you live in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Washington DC, Washington state, West Virginia, or Wyoming — vote for who you want.

If you're disgusted with the two major parties, show them. Vote for Gary Johnson (Libertarian) or Jill Stein (Green). Write in Bernie Sanders or John McCain. Vote for Darrell Castle (Constitution Party) or Gloria La Riva (Party For Socialism and Liberation), or Evan McMullin, or Mickey Mouse.

But vote, and remember that president isn't the only item on the ballot. There are important senate races, ballot questions like marijuana legalization, and much more. People fought and died for your right to vote. Take advantage of it.

Okay, back to football! Here are the Week Nine NFL Power Rankings; brackets show previous rank.

1. New England Patriots [1] — Since Tom Brady returned, they've won every game by double-digits, with an average score of 34-18.

2. Dallas Cowboys [2] — Halfway through his rookie season, Ezekiel Elliott is on pace for 1,782 rushing yards. Most rushing yards by a rookie:

1. Eric Dickerson, 1,808
2. George Rogers, 1,674
3. Alfred Morris, 1,613

3. Atlanta Falcons [4] — Forty-three points, 31 first downs, and no punts. If the playoffs started today, they'd have a first-round bye.

4. Oakland Raiders [11] — First team all season to score 30 against Denver. They also had 30 first downs to the Broncos' 13, and won time of possession 41:28 - 18:32.

5. Denver Broncos [3] — The defense was dealing with injuries, and the aftermath of last week's scary collision involving defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. The offense has no excuse.

6. Seattle Seahawks [10] — I understand why the Bills were upset, not just with the officials but with Richard Sherman. It looked like he went for the player, not the ball, and he taunted the Buffalo sideline after injuring one of their players. I wouldn't be surprised if he receives a fine from the league office, but from Seattle's perspective, it's worth it for a play that probably kept the game from going to overtime.

7. Kansas City Chiefs [8] — On the play that got him thrown out of the game, Travis Kelce tried to get his towel to throw at the official, but couldn't grab it. Undeterred, he retrieved his towel, threw it at the ref — that'll show him — and got tossed.

8. Buffalo Bills [9] — The refs just flatly robbed them of three points at the end of the first half. They failed to blow the whistle to stop the play when Richard Sherman was offside, then failed to call Sherman for roughing the kicker, which NFL Head of Officiating Dean Blandino immediately admitted was a mistake. Insult to injury, referee Walt Anderson forced Dan Carpenter to leave the field after he needed medical attention as a result of Sherman's hit. When Buffalo executed a spike so Carpenter could come back on, the umpire stayed over the ball so long that the Bills were charged with delay of game, and then Carpenter missed a 54-yard kick. Scott Van Pelt called it "a significant piece of referee butchery," which I thought was nicely put.

9. San Diego Chargers [14] — Fifth game scoring over 30 points. Actually, they've topped 30 in six of their last eight games, the only exceptions being a pair of matchups with Denver. San Diego ranks 3rd in the league in points per game (29.8).

10. Pittsburgh Steelers [6] — More penalty yards (99) than offensive yards (71) through the first three quarters. They went three-and-out eight times, most of any team in any game this season. Early in the fourth quarter, they only had two first downs, one of them on a penalty. Once Baltimore took a 21-0 lead in the fourth quarter, Ben Roethlisberger passed for 213 yards and a touchdown, with another touchdown rushing, but it wasn't meaningful production.

11. Washington [13] — Fewest three-and-outs in the NFL this season:

1. Washington, 8
2. Dallas, 12
3. New Orleans, 13
t4. Carolina, 16
t4. Green Bay, 16

Their offense moves the ball, but they commit too many turnovers and they've stalled in the red zone.

12. Philadelphia Eagles [5] — Carson Wentz passed for 364 yards, but with no TDs, 2 INTs, and a 64.5 passer rating. The last player with 350 yards and a passer rating under 65 was Eli Manning in 2013 (362 yds, 4 INT). Wentz looked really bad. Both of his interceptions were on him, and he repeatedly missed throws to open receivers. Those are normal rookie mistakes, but they're still mistakes.

13. Carolina Panthers [16] — Another week, another game in which Cam Newton took hits that probably should have been 15-yard penalties but weren't called.

14. Cincinnati Bengals [15] — It seems like teams are struggling coming off the bye this year, but it's not really true. Teams are 11-5 the week after the bye.

15. Detroit Lions [20] — Another unimpressive win. They won in overtime, and only reached overtime because Blair Walsh missed a PAT. I think the Lions are a pretty average team.

16. Green Bay Packers [12] — When Jordy Nelson has fewer than 40 yards, they're 3-0. When Nelson has more than 40 yards, they're 1-4. The Packers aren't effective when Nelson is their main offensive weapon.

17. New Orleans Saints [18] — Gained 571 yards and allowed 486. They did generate four takeaways (3 fmbl, 1 INT), for the first time since September 2013.

18. Minnesota Vikings [7] — Lost on special teams. Detroit's Matt Prater made three long field goals, while Blair Walsh had a field goal blocked and missed a critical extra point, allowing Detroit to reach overtime.

19. Arizona Cardinals [17] — In 16 games last year, Carson Palmer took 25 sacks for 151 yards. In seven games this season, Palmer has been sacked 24 times for 151 yards.

20. Miami Dolphins [21] — Three wins in a row since their wake-up loss to Tennessee. Jay Ajayi has 529 rushing yards in their last three games, the most by any player in a three-game stretch since Adrian Peterson in 2012.

21. New York Giants [22] — Their best offensive lineman, Justin Pugh, sprained his MCL and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks. There's no definite report yet on Victor Cruz, but at the moment his injury does not seem serious.

22. Houston Texans [19] — Dropped three spots during the bye week, because teams ranked below them (Lions, Dolphins, Giants) moved up.

23. Baltimore Ravens [26] — Including a wild card playoff win in January 2015, they've won four straight against the Steelers.

24. Indianapolis Colts [29] — Frank Gore caught the 400th pass of his career, passing Tony Dorsett. He's closing in on celebrated receiving RBs like Charlie Garner (419) and Edgerrin James (430). Gore, who is 33 and plays for a team that isn't very good, ranks 11th in the NFL in rushing. He's probably never been the best running back in the NFL, but like Dorsett, his sustained effectiveness should make him a Hall of Famer.

25. Tennessee Titans [25] — First time all season that DeMarco Murray failed to outrush the opponent's leading rusher. Derrick Henry injured his calf during warm-ups, and his status is unclear.

26. Los Angeles Rams [23] — Here's what I wrote in Week 4, when the Rams were 3-1:

They've beaten the Seahawks and Cardinals, the first time they've done that since ... last year. Don't read too much into two games. The Rams still rank 30th or worse in every major offensive category, including points per game, yards per game, rushing yards per game, passing yards per game, and first downs per game. You can't win consistently without better offense.

Los Angeles has scored 10 points or less in half its games, including the last two weeks in a row.

27. New York Jets [24] — Still have the 4th-ranked rush defense in the NFL, but in the last four weeks, they've allowed two 111-yard rushers (David Johnson and Jay Ajayi).

28. Chicago Bears [27] — Last week's win against the Vikings already looks less impressive.

29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers [28] — Thursday night games are ridiculous. Their defense was on the field for 85 plays in the Week 8 overtime loss to Oakland, and then they had to come back and face the Falcons after only three days' rest.

30. Cleveland Browns [30] — Cody Kessler had a 104.4 passer rating but they went 1-of-9 on third down.

31. Jacksonville Jaguars [31] — Outgained the Chiefs 449-231 and 25 first downs to 10. Kansas City went 1-of-14 on third down and 0-for-3 in the red zone. But the Jags were -3 in turnovers and lost by 5. They're last in the NFL in turnover differential, -12.

32. San Francisco 49ers [32] — Seventh straight game allowing a 100-yard rusher, fifth straight game allowing a 138-yard rusher, and third straight game allowing at least 240 rushing yards.

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