Tuesday, December 6, 2016
2016 NFL Week 13 Power Rankings
Week 13 Game Balls
Offense — David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals. Gained 175 yards from scrimmage and scored 2 TDs, plus he had two first down conversions on 3rd-and-more-than-10. He made big plays throughout the game.
Defense — Eric Berry, DB, Kansas City Chiefs. Two interceptions returned for scores: a pick-six on a 37-yard return, and a length-of-the-field pick-two on a two-point conversion by Atlanta, which turned a 27-28 deficit into a 29-28 victory.
Special Teams — Stephen Gostkowski, K, New England Patriots. Six-for-six on field goals and extra points, including three field goals of 45 yards or more.
Rookie — Jordan Howard, RB, Chicago Bears. Rushed for 117 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Honorable Mentions — RB LeSean McCoy, LB Vontaze Burfict, P Johnny Hekker
Hekker is by far the best punter in the NFL right now. On Sunday, playing in 33° wind chill, Hekker punted 8 times. He averaged 52.9 net yards; not only did he boom his kicks, those 8 punts were returned for a total of just 7 yards. Five of his 8 punts — more than half — were downed inside the 20-yard line, and none went for touchbacks.
Five Quick Hits
* NFL Players of the Month for November: Marcus Mariota, Khalil Mack, Cairo Santos (AFC); Kirk Cousins, Landon Collins, Matt Prater (NFC).
* Cris Collinsworth is the best NFL analyst on television, but on Thursday night, he actually said, "Nothing wrong with the Minnesota Vikings as run blockers." Minnesota ranks dead last in rushing yards and average per carry. There's lots wrong with them as run blockers.
* Surprising statistic: which defense has forced the fewest three-and-outs? The 11-1 Dallas Cowboys. The Lions, Packers, and Saints are also near the bottom.
* In the first quarter of the Sunday night game, Joe Webb launched his helmet at an opponent's. He drew a 15-yard penalty, but what does a player have to do to get thrown out in this league?
Oh wait, I know. He can do a choreographed dance, twice. That results in automatic ejection.
* Which do you think the NFL cares about more, image or player safety?
1. Dallas Cowboys  — Could have been called for a penalty on the two-point conversion, but Tony Corrente's crew — the same ones who stole a win from the Texans in Mexico City — butchered numerous calls throughout the game, most of which went against Dallas. The two most egregious examples:
1) First Quarter. Ezekiel Elliott's 43-yard run is called back by a phantom holding penalty on Doug Free. It was a terrible call, and it probably affected the final score, since Elliott's run went to the Minnesota 13.
2) Second Quarter. Anthony Hitchens' interception was overturned by a questionable Illegal Use of Hands penalty on Orlando Scandrick.
All told, Dallas had 10 penalties for 78 yards, giving Minnesota 2 first downs, compared to the Vikings' 8 penalties for 57 yards and no Cowboy first downs. Some Viking fans will want to claim that officials stole the game from them, but I think Minnesota benefitted from the officiating more than Dallas did.
I don't believe the Cowboys are really the best team in the NFL — other than the Browns, all their games for the last month and a half have been close — but I don't know who to move up.
2. Seattle Seahawks  — All-pro safety Earl Thomas has a lower leg fracture. He's out for the rest of the season, including the playoffs. Thomas even suggested that he might retire, though that would surprise me.
3. New England Patriots  — Placed Rob Gronkowski on injured reserve last Saturday after his back surgery. The Patriots already designated a player to return from IR, so Gronkowski is out for the rest of the season, including the playoffs.
4. Oakland Raiders  — See Bills summary, No. 11.
5. Kansas City Chiefs  — I can't tell if they're lucky, or if they make their own luck because they're good. The Falcons outplayed them — as did the Broncos last week — but Kansas City made big plays in big situations.
6. Atlanta Falcons  — Schedule is about to get easier: their last four games are all against teams with losing records. Julio Jones, who was injured on Sunday, apparently should be fine for Week 14.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers  — Third straight double-digit victory. But here's something I don't get. On FOX, Jimmy Johnson said it's "not debatable" that the Steelers and Giants have the best wide receivers in the entire league. That's obviously bullshit; it is so debatable that I'm not even sure what he meant.
Maybe he meant they have the best individual receivers, Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham. But isn't there lots of debate about where Julio Jones and Mike Evans fit into that? From the phrasing, it seemed like he meant the WR corps as a whole, but that's even harder to justify. The Steelers' second-leading receiver is a running back, and third is a tight end. The Giants' number two receiver is Sterling Shepard, who isn't even rostered in your 12-team fantasy league. There are half a dozen teams that pretty clearly have WR corps as good or better, to say nothing of debatably. Jimmy should be ashamed of himself for shilling like that. He should punch himself in the head twice and publicly apologize to his audience.
8. Denver Broncos  — Only gained 10 first downs, including 1/13 on third downs, and punted 11 times. The Broncos started four drives in Jacksonville territory, yielding a combined 6 points. They also scored on a 51-yard interception return by Bradley Roby. There was only one scoring drive all game that could really be credited to the offense.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers  — Fourth straight win, a streak that includes the 9-3 Chiefs and 8-3-1 Seahawks. They should stop kicking extra points and just go for two unless the situation dictates otherwise. Their offense is pretty decent, and Roberto Aguayo kind of sucks.
10. Detroit Lions  — First game all season that they held a lead throughout the fourth quarter, also their first game decided by more than 7 points. None of their last six opponents have scored more than 20 points.
11. Buffalo Bills  — Led 24-9 halfway through the third quarter, then allowed 29 straight points in 11:43, and lost by two touchdowns. Here's what happened:
The Raiders drove 75 yards for a touchdown: 24-16. The Bills started at their own 14, went three-and-out, and had a short punt with a long return. Oakland took over at the Buffalo 38 and scored another TD after five plays: 24-23, just like that. The Bills went three-and-out again, and the Raiders scored in five plays again. Derek Carr threw four long passes in a row, and two of them were complete. Now the Raiders led 30-24. The Bills went three-and-out for the third drive in a row. The defense forced a punt, but Tyrod Taylor got picked on Buffalo's next play, giving Oakland the ball just 16 yards from the end zone. They scored another TD and made a two-point conversion: 38-24.
Taylor fumbled on the next drive, Oakland ran the clock down to :18, and the Bills lost by 14, in a game they had been winning by 15 in the second half. Buffalo ranks 32nd in passing yards, and isn't built to come back, but leads the NFL in rushing yards, and should have been able to hold a lead. Those back-to-back-to-back three-and-outs, combined with bad special teams and Taylor's interception, set up Oakland's 29-0 run in less than a quarter.
12. Washington  — Second in the NFL in offensive yardage, but tied for 1st in field goal attempts under 30 yards. Such an explosive offense can't keep getting bogged down in the red zone, and Jay Gruden desperately needs to start going for it on 4th down once in a while. His conservatism borders on cowardice, and it's killing his team. With 1:55 before halftime, the Cardinals led 7-3 and Washington had 4th-and-goal at the Arizona 1-yard line. Gruden opted for a 20-yard field goal, so they still trailed 7-6. Why not go for the TD there? Even if you miss, the Cardinals are pinned at their own 1. After the FG, they took over at their own 25 and drove for a field goal before halftime, effectively nullifying Washington's field goal.
This sort of thing happens in almost every Washington loss. On Thanksgiving, Washington went 2/5 in the red zone and Dallas went 4/4. If Washington had scored a TD instead of a field goal once, and forced Dallas to kick even once out of those four trips, Washington wins 30-28. In their Week 2 loss to Dallas, they went 2/6 in the red zone. In the third quarter, they had two drives start in field goal range and settled for 3 both times.
In the tie against Cincinnati, Dustin Hopkins made a 20-yard field goal from the 2-yard line, and missed on third down in overtime, because Gruden loves field goals so much he can't wait for 4th down. Gruden coaches not to lose, and you can't win in this league without taking some chances.
13. San Diego Chargers  — The last time they played a team with a losing record was Week 4, more than two months ago.
14. Carolina Panthers  — Benching Cam Newton for the first play didn't affect the outcome. Derek Anderson's pass was on target; it was a good pass. It went off Mike Tolbert's hands. Maybe Cam Newton throws a more catchable ball, but I have a hard time blaming that on Anderson, and an even harder time blaming it on Ron Rivera. And in a 40-7 to loss, it's hard to say that anything Carolina did differently might have changed the result.
15. Baltimore Ravens  — Season-highs in points and yardage. They're 4-1 since the bye, with the loss at Dallas.
16. Miami Dolphins  — I don't know how many times two teams have lost six-game win streaks on the same day, as the Dolphins and Giants did this weekend, but it's got to be pretty unusual.
17. New Orleans Saints  — Three interceptions in the second half, but they were getting beat before that, too. Most three-INT games by active players:
1. Eli Manning, 21
2. Drew Brees, 17
t3. Ryan Fitzpatrick, 14
t3. Carson Palmer, 14
See also Giants summary directly below.
18. New York Giants  — You may have seen that Eli Manning had his 5th multi-interception game of the season, tying Blake Bortles for the most in the NFL. Most multi-INT games among active players:
1. Drew Brees, 60
2. Eli Manning, 58
3. Carson Palmer, 48
Brees has played longer and thrown many more passes than Eli (8585-6679, 29% more). Eli's turnover rate is unique among longtime starters in today's NFL.
There are 18 active players with at least 20 multi-INT games. Their teams' average winning percentage in those games is .287, and most of them within 75 points of that. The outlier is poor Josh McCown, who is 0-20 in his career when throwing more than one interception. This pattern has followed him to five different teams, none of which were very good.
19. Arizona Cardinals  — The Cardinals are 24-7-1 (.766) at home under Bruce Arians. Ty Mathieu will probably return next week.
20. Cincinnati Bengals  — Andy Dalton had a big game (332 yds, 2 TD, 130 rating, no sacks) against a pass defense that was really good earlier in the season. Vontaze Burfict had a game-high 10 solo tackles, 4 passes defensed, 2 interceptions, and 54 return yards.
21. Green Bay Packers  — Jordy Nelson had more receiving yards (118) than the rest of the Packers combined (91). Green Bay has won two in a row after a four-game losing streak.
22. Houston Texans  — Freezing temperatures, snow, and two of their best defensive players inactive: not a recipe for success. Brock Osweiler had his highest passer rating of the season (97.6).
23. Minnesota Vikings  — Sam Bradford held the Cowboy offense to 1/9 on third downs and recovered 2 Dallas fumbles, but the defense gave the game away with a badly overthrown pass on the two-point conversion at the end of the game. Quarterbacks are perfect and never make mistakes.
That was my Jim Nantz impression.
24. Indianapolis Colts  — Dominant win, obviously, maybe the most dominant of any team all season. But is anyone else convinced that Jon Gruden doesn't know what "pick-six" means? I think he thinks it means "interception" rather than "interception returned for a touchdown." Jon, not all INTs are pick-sixes.
25. Tennessee Titans  — According to the Simple Rating System at pro-football-reference.com, they've played the easiest schedule in the NFL.
26. Philadelphia Eagles  — Fourth week in a row scoring 15 or less. I know they're missing Ryan Mathews and Jordan Matthews, but maybe we shouldn't put Carson Wentz in the Hall of Fame just yet. Wentz passed 60 times for just 308 yards, tied for the 4th-lowest total ever by a passer with 60+ attempts. Wentz ranks 28th in passer rating.
27. Jacksonville Jaguars  — Blake Bortles tossed his league-leading 15th INT, and his fourth pick-six. Marcus Mariota also has four, while Case Keenum and Philip Rivers have three each. About half the league — 17 of the 32 teams — haven't given up any pick-sixes this year.
28. Chicago Bears  — Matt Barkley had a 97.0 passer rating, Jordan Howard rushed for 3 TDs, and Akiem Hicks and Leonard Floyd both had multiple sacks.
29. Los Angeles Rams  — Apparently they extended head coach Jeff Fisher through 2018 during the offseason, though it was just announced. There seems to be a strong consensus outside the organization that Fisher is part of the problem, not the solution.
30. New York Jets  — As ugly a game as you could ask for. From the opening play, they looked sloppy and unmotivated.
31. San Francisco 49ers  — Colin Kaepernick went 1-of-5 for 4 yards, but he also got sacked 5 times for -25 yards. That's a total of 10 attempts and -21 yards. He averaged -2.1 net yards per attempt, in three quarters of play against a 2-9 team.
32. Cleveland Browns  — This season is punishment for their hideous uniforms. They should go back to the jerseys of the Brian Sipe and Bernie Kosar eras. Any team that dresses like they do now deserves to go 0-16.
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