Tuesday, November 22, 2016

2016 NFL Week 11 Power Rankings

By Brad Oremland

Week 11 Game Balls

Offense — Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington. Yeah, he was facing a beat-up defense, but he was also facing 25-mph winds. Cousins passed for 375 yards and 3 touchdowns, with a 145.8 passer rating, plus he converted that critical fourth down with a quarterback sneak.

Defense — Xavier Rhodes, DB, Minnesota Vikings. Intercepted Carson Palmer twice, with 100 return yards and a touchdown.

Special Teams — Cordarrelle Patterson, KR, Minnesota Vikings. His 104-yard kickoff return touchdown provided the margin of victory. Minnesota is only the fourth team in history with two 100-yard return TDs in the same game.

Rookie — Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys. Facing one of the best defenses in the league, passed for 300 yards and 3 TDs, with no turnovers and a 127.2 passer rating.

Honorable Mentions — RB David Johnson, DB Stephon Gilmore, P Johnny Hekker

Five Quick Hits — PFHOF Edition

* The Pro Football Hall of Fame has released its list of 26 semi-finalists, 15 of whom will become finalists. My preferences to advance: Morten Andersen, Steve Atwater, Isaac Bruce, Don Coryell, Terrell Davis, Brian Dawkins, Alan Faneca, Torry Holt, Joe Jacoby, Kevin Mawae, Karl Mecklenberg, Jason Taylor, LaDainian Tomlinson, Hines Ward, and Darren Woodson.

* I didn't expect him to get in on the first ballot, but I think it's pretty screwed-up that Donovan McNabb isn't even a semi-finalist.

* The one semi-finalist who's really out of place is former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson, who produced two great years and almost nothing else. Johnson's career record was 80-64. Wade Phillips was 82-64, and that doesn't include three decades as a successful assistant coach. I think there's a real question which of them is more worthy of Canton.

* There are half a dozen eligible coaches who won more than twice as many games as Johnson and aren't in. Compare Jimmy Johnson to Mike Holmgren, who took two different teams to the Super Bowl and once had a coaching tree that made up a quarter of the league. Johnson won 80 games, with a .556 winning percentage. Holmgren won 161 games, with a .592 winning percentage.

* Johnson won two Super Bowls in Dallas but fizzled in Miami. Holmgren won a Super Bowl in Green Bay, nearly repeated the following season, and later led Seattle to Super Bowl XL. Johnson didn't invent new strategies, he didn't spawn a great coaching tree, and Barry Switzer duplicated his success. He was a good coach, not a great one.

Back to the present ... here are the Week 11 NFL power rankings; brackets indicate previous rank.

1. New England Patriots [1] — How can a team that's only thrown one interception in 10 games be stuck at +1 in turnover differential? They've lost seven fumbles, which is on the high side, but they're simply not forcing enough turnovers. Only the Jaguars (7), Bears (8), and Colts (8) have fewer takeaways than New England (9).

2. Seattle Seahawks [3] — Defensive end Michael Bennett (knee) will probably return for Week 12, but safety Earl Thomas strained his hamstring and is likely to miss a game or two.

3. Dallas Cowboys [2] — Each team's rookie rushing leader:

LA: Eric Dickerson, 1984 — 1,808
NO: George Rogers, 1981 — 1,674
WAS: Alfred Morris, 2012 — 1,613
ARI: Ottis Anderson, 1979 — 1,605
IND: Edgerrin James, 1999 — 1,553
DEN: Clinton Portis, 2002 — 1,508
NE: Curtis Martin, 1995 — 1,487
DET: Barry Sanders, 1989 — 1,470
TB: Doug Martin, 2012 — 1,454
TEN: Earl Campbell, 1978 — 1,450
SEA: Curt Warner, 1983 — 1,449
BAL: Jamal Lewis, 2000 — 1,364
MIN: Adrian Peterson, 2007 — 1,341
HOU: Steve Slaton, 2008 — 1,282
CHI: Matt Forte, 2008 — 1,238
SD: LaDainian Tomlinson, 2001 — 1,236
JAC: Fred Taylor, 1998 — 1,223
BUF: Joe Cribbs, 1980 — 1,185
GB: Eddie Lacy, 2013 — 1,178
CIN: Corey Dillon, 1997 — 1,129
KC: Joe Delaney, 1981 — 1,121
MIA: Karim Abdul-Jabbar, 1996 — 1,116
CLE: Kevin Mack, 1985 — 1,104
DAL: Ezekiel Elliott, 2016* — 1,102
PIT: Franco Harris, 1972 — 1,055
ATL: William Andrews, 1979 — 1,023
SF: Ricky Watters, 1992 — 1,013
NYJ: Matt Snell, 1964 — 948
CAR: Jonathan Stewart, 2008 — 836
NYG: Tuffy Leemans, 1936 — 830
OAK: Marcus Allen, 1982 — 697
PHI: LeSean McCoy, 2009 — 637

Harris (PIT) and Snell (NYJ) posted their totals in 14-game seasons, while Leemans (NYG) led the NFL in rushing in the 12-game 1936 season. Allen (OAK) played a 9-game season. Ezekiel Elliott, of course, has played 10 games so far. But it's also a little weird that there was so much fuss this weekend over his breaking the 6th-lowest franchise record for rushing yards by a rookie (1,007). I mean, if someone broke the rookie marks for the Chiefs, Dolphins, or Browns, would anyone really care? Those records are all 100 yards greater than the old Dallas record held by Tony Dorsett. I know Dorsett's a Hall of Famer, but it's a weird record for the media to get so jazzed about.

4. Denver Broncos [5] — If the playoffs started today, the AFC West and NFC East would get all four wild cards.

5. Oakland Raiders [4] — I know Jack Del Rio went for it on 4th-and-1 to seal the win, but his overly-conservative coaching easily could have cost them the game. Del Rio opted for a 19-yard field goal on 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line, and a 20-yard field goal on 4th-and-goal from the 2-yard line. Those are bad decisions, and no way to coach in a competitive game.

6. Atlanta Falcons [7] — Lead the NFL in points per game, even though they've faced top-10 defenses like Denver, Seattle, and Philadelphia. Four of their last six games are at home.

7. Buffalo Bills [8] — Best rushing team in the NFL. They lead the league in yards per game (157.8), yards per carry (5.3), touchdowns (17), and percentage of runs for first downs (29.5%). LeSean McCoy had surgery on his dislocated thumb, but for now the team expects McCoy to play in Week 12.

8. Kansas City Chiefs [6] — They were missing Marcus Peters, who leads the NFL in takeaways (5 INT, 3 FR). He'll probably be back next week, and Justin Houston's role should grow in his second game back from injury. Sack leader Dee Ford, however, left Sunday's game with a hamstring strain, and his status for Week 12 is unclear.

9. Pittsburgh Steelers [9] — Defense had 8 sacks, including 2.5 by Stephon Tuitt and 1 by James Harrison, who became the all-time franchise leader (77.5), passing Jason Gildon. Joey Porter (60) ranks 3rd, Greg Lloyd (53.5) ranks 6th, and Kevin Greene (35.5) is 8th.

10. Washington [11] — Kudos to Jay Gruden for smart aggressiveness, going for two against the wind and probably winning the game by going for it on 4th-and-inches from his own 41.

11. Carolina Panthers [14] — Now 3-1 since the bye, but they lost center Ryan Kalil (shoulder), linebacker Luke Kuechly (concussion), and top pass rusher Mario Addison (foot) to injuries.

12. Philadelphia Eagles [10] — Jim Nantz declared that the Eagles have their franchise quarterback. "You know Wentz is going to be there for a dozen years or so. Probably beyond." I'll take that bet.

In the free agency era, the only QBs to still start for the team that drafted them, 12 years later, are Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, and Aaron Rodgers. There are Rookies of the Year (Vince Young, Sam Bradford, Robert Griffin III) and Hall of Fame caliber QBs (Drew Brees, Donovan McNabb, Kurt Warner) who didn't stay with their original team for a dozen years, and it's a little early to be polishing hardware or preparing an HOF bust for Wentz, who hasn't had a 100 passer rating in any game since Week 5.

13. Miami Dolphins [12] — Jarvis Landry is listed at 5-foot-11, 206 lbs. He plays like a tight end, fighting for yardage and battling tacklers until the whistle. The Dolphins survived their two-week West Coast road trip with a pair of wins, improving to 6-4. The Dolphins went 6-10 last year, so 6-4 is a promising start for first-year head coach Adam Gase.

14. San Diego Chargers [13] — At least one takeaway in every game, including 5 interceptions by Casey Hayward, tied for the league lead.

15. New York Giants [15] — Late in the fourth quarter, they led Chicago 22-16. The Bears had 2nd-and-24 at New York's 44-yard line, and Jay Cutler threw an incomplete pass: 3rd-and-24. But the Bears were called for an illegal shift, and Ben McAdoo accepted the penalty, making it 2nd-and-29. In what universe would you rather give your opponent 2nd-and-29 than 3rd-and-24? Landon Collins secured the game with an interception on the next play, so it's a moot point, but that's just not the right decision.

16. Detroit Lions [16] — 14 yards and 1 first down on their first five possessions combined. The Lions scored two return TDs in their 26-19 win over the 2-8 Jaguars, but things like return TDs are how bad teams lose games, not how good teams win them. Detroit has trailed in the fourth quarter in every game this season.

17. New Orleans Saints [17] — Horrible special teams. Marcus Murphy attempted to field a kickoff that was going out of bounds, so instead of getting the ball on their own 40, they took over at their own 1. Wil Lutz had a kick blocked for the second week in a row — and returned to the end zone, for the second week in a row, though a stupid penalty by Carolina nullified the TD. The decision to kick a field goal, down 23-3 in the fourth quarter, was curious.

18. Houston Texans [19] — That was the most one-sided officiating I've seen all season. In the first quarter, DeAndre Hopkins was incorrectly called out of bounds on a sure touchdown, and Houston settled for a field goal. On the next drive, Braxton Miller appeared to have a first down, but the officials ruled him short, which set up 4th-and-1, so Houston punted. Early in the third quarter, Brock Osweiler appeared to extend the ball before going out of bounds, but the officials gave him 4th-and-1. The Texans converted on fourth down, but it was still an ugly call. And on back-to-back plays in the fourth quarter, officials called pretty obvious first downs as short, setting up a turnover that led to Oakland's game-winning touchdown.

Yeah, Houston made mistakes in coverage that contributed to their losing, but the officials flatly stole that game from them. I don't think the result was deliberately fixed, but I do think Tony Corrente's crew should be investigated. Their performance was outrageous, in the most literal sense of the word.

19. Minnesota Vikings [23] — Worst rushing offense in the NFL, maybe the worst in NFL history. Minnesota has the fewest yards (700) of any team, on pace for the 4th-fewest ever in a 16-game season. The Vikings also have a historically low average, 2.70 yards per carry. No team in 20 years has finished a season below 3.0 — the Vikings seem like a lock to do that — and if this holds up, it would be the lowest average since the 1953 New York Giants (2.64).

20. Arizona Cardinals [18] — Lead the NFL in fewest yards allowed. All-pro DB Tyrann Mathieu is expected back next week.

21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers [26] — Seven drives of nine plays or more, against a pretty good defense. After a very shaky start to the season, rookie kicker Roberto Aguayo appears to be settling in. In a game the Bucs won by 2, Aguayo went 4-for-4 on field goals and made his only PAT, accounting for 13 points in Tampa's 19-17 win.

22. Cincinnati Bengals [21] — Lost Giovani Bernard and possibly A.J. Green to season-ending injuries. This probably ends any hope of a sixth straight playoff appearance.

23. Indianapolis Colts [25] — Highest single-game receiving totals of Frank Gore's career:

1. September 26, 2010 — Week 3, at Kansas City: 9 rec, 102 yds (L 10-31)
2. November 25, 2007 — Week 12, at Arizona: 11 rec, 98 yds (W 37-31)
3. September 10, 2006 — Week 1, at Arizona: 6 rec, 83 yds (L 27-34)
4. December 27, 2009 — Week 16, vs. Detroit: 4 rec, 81 yds (W 20-6)
5. November 8, 2009 — Week 9, vs. Tennessee: 7 rec, 75 yds (L 27-34)
6. November 20, 2016 — Week 11, vs. Tennessee: 4 rec, 71 yds (W 24-17)

None of Gore's 15 receiving TDs came in any of these games.

24. Tennessee Titans [20] — Swept by the Colts, for the 10th time in 15 seasons. Since they became division rivals in 2002, the Titans are 6-24 against Indianapolis. Tennessee swept the series in 2002, they split in 2011 and every year from 2006-08, and the Colts swept from 2003-05, 2009-10, and 2012-16, with a current 11-game winning streak.

25. Green Bay Packers [22] — Back-to-back games allowing more than 40 points. Injuries have become a massive problem.

26. Baltimore Ravens [24] — Offense lacks firepower. They haven't scored 30 points in any game this season, and they're 0-4 when allowing more than 20.

27. Los Angeles Rams [27] — Fourth straight game scoring 10 points or less. Shuffle the QBs as much as you like, the line can't block and the receivers can't get open.

28. New York Jets [28] — This being their bye week, it's probably my only opportunity to point out that they have three active players surnamed Marshall. There are only four Marshalls on an active roster in the NFL, and the Jets have three of them. Denver linebacker Brandon Marshall is the non-Jet.

29. Chicago Bears [29] — Rookie Leonard Floyd suffered a frightening injury on Sunday, but he has full mobility, he has been released from the hospital, and he will play again this season. Jay Cutler's injury, while not as frightening, looks like it will end not only his season, but probably his career with the Bears. Matt Barkley is the likely starting QB going forward.

30. Jacksonville Jaguars [30] — Committed three turnovers, and lost after leading 19-16 in the fourth quarter. They're -15 in turnovers this season, by far the worst in the league (Jets, -11).

31. San Francisco 49ers [32] — As if their league-worst defense needed any more problems, safety Eric Reid has a torn biceps and won't play again this season.

32. Cleveland Browns [31] — Officially eliminated from playoff contention.

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