Tuesday, November 14, 2017
2017 NFL Week 10 Power Rankings
Week 10 Game Balls
Offense — Adam Thielen, WR, Minnesota Vikings. Eight receptions for 166 yards and a touchdown, despite spending much of the day matched up against Josh Norman.
Defense — Adrian Clayborn, DL, Atlanta Falcons. I know, the Cowboys used a tackling dummy to protect Dak Prescott's blind side, but Clayborn had six sacks, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery.
Special Teams — Dion Lewis, KR, New England Patriots. Nifty 103-yard kickoff return touchdown gave the Patriots a 14-3 cushion in the first quarter.
Rookie — Marshon Lattimore, DB, New Orleans Saints. This should probably go to teammate Alvin Kamara, but I took Kamara last week, and I haven't chosen Lattimore all season, even though I think he's pretty clearly the Rookie of the Year so far.
Honorable Mentions — QB Cam Newton, DB A.J. Bouye, K Nick Rose
Five Quick Hits
* This Thursday's contest was an urgent reminder that Color Rush uniforms need to be dispensed with, immediately and permanently. The Seahawks wore their awful puke-colored unis, while the Cardinals wore black. Those teams' colors are blue and red, respectively — not puke-colored and black. Cardinals are a species of bird best known for being red.
* Ten weeks in, this column is still alive in survivor pools. I've taken the Bills, Seahawks, Patriots, Cardinals, Eagles, Texans, Titans, Bengals, Rams, and Lions. This week, I'm finally taking the Chiefs, in New Jersey to face the Giants. The Giants are a mess, and Andy Reid is 16-2 following a bye week.
* Via Chase Stuart on Twitter: "In his last 10 games, Adrian Peterson has 8 games with 33 rushing yards or less, and 2 games with 134 rushing yards or more."
* Hope you saw this tweet Sunday evening from MDS: "Jared Goff had 355 yards and 3 TDs today. Case Keenum had 304 yards and 4 TDs today. Last year Goff and Keenum were both on the Rams, who had the worst offense in the NFL. I'm beginning to think Jeff Fisher and his staff were not a bunch of offensive geniuses."
* R.I.P. Roy Halladay. He won two Cy Young Awards, pitched a no-hitter in the playoffs, threw a perfect game, led his league in complete games seven times, and was liked and admired throughout baseball.
Pat Tillman has no place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. On Thursday night, Cris Collinsworth gave his annual sermon with his annual wording: "If Pat Tillman doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame, I don't know who does." The PFHOF criteria very clearly exclude off-field activity. That implicitly includes enrolling in the military. And if Tillman belongs in the Hall of Fame, why not the dozens of pro football players who fought in World War II? Why not those who fought in Korea? Or Vietnam, or World War I? How about Steelers tackle Alejandro Villanueva, who earned a Bronze Star in the Army?
Well, that would add over 100 people to the Hall of Fame who weren't particularly exceptional as pro football players. The best of the veterans, guys like Otto Graham and Ollie Matson and Roger Staubach, are already in. If a third of the players in the HOF aren't in there for football, why is it called the Pro FOOTBALL Hall of Fame? We already have so many memorials to the military in this country, surely our greatest monument to pro football can be restricted to the sport itself.
I'm not trying to disrespect Pat Tillman, who tried to do what he thought was right. But what makes him better than the dozens of other players who served in the military, including those who died? Honoring military service is not, never has been, and never should be the mission of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Collinsworth could not be more wrong about this, and furthermore, he owes an apology to all the other players besides Tillman who served, and to the families of men like Nick Basca, Al Blozis, and Jack Lummus. Servicemembers like Buddy Young and Rocky Bleier and Blozis have a much stronger case for Canton than Tillman, which makes Collinsworth's annual schtick on Tillman's behalf seem ignorant and insincere.
Week 10 NFL Power Rankings
Brackets show last week's rank.
1. Philadelphia Eagles  — Lead the NFL in touchdowns. They've scored at least 4 TDs for five games in a row, and at least 20 points in every game this season.
2. New Orleans Saints  — Two 100-yard rushers and no punts. Drew Brees had a quiet game, but leads the NFL in an important stat that we seldom notice: he's only taken 8 sacks all season, less than one per game. Combined with the Saints' efficient run game, that keeps them out of 3rd-and-long situations. Brees is minimizing mistakes and playing unselfishly, and it shows in the team's results.
3. Los Angeles Rams  — Fourth straight double-digit win. Alec Ogletree's pick-six in the third quarter was nullified by what Dan Fouts referred to as "kind of a ticky-tack call." I agree with Fouts: I don't think a penalty should have been called.
4. New England Patriots  — Fifth win in a row. A special shout-out this week to special teams coordinator Joe Judge. The Patriots had a kickoff return touchdown, a punt block, and a fumble recovery on special teams. Their coverage unit pinned the Broncos inside the 25 on six of eight kickoffs and allowed zero punt return yards.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers  — Five of their seven remaining games are at home, and both of their road opponents are 3-6. Their defensive backfield is thin, after Joe Haden broke his leg and Mike Mitchell now dealing with an ankle injury.
6. Minnesota Vikings  — Scored 5 touchdowns on their first six possessions, including four drives of more than 70 yards. The Vikings rank in the top 10 in yards and points, they've won five in a row, and they lead the NFC North. Clearly, what this team needs is a quarterback change!
7. Kansas City Chiefs  — Alex Smith is having a Steve DeBerg season. DeBerg played 17 seasons with six teams, ranking among the top 10 in yards only three times and rating only twice. But DeBerg had one magical season in Kansas City, 1990, in which he led the NFL in lowest interception percentage, with 23 TDs and only 4 INTs. By way of comparison, NFL MVP Joe Montana had 26 TDs and 16 INTs.
This is Alex Smith's 13th NFL season. Smith has never ranked in the NFL's top 10 in passing yards or touchdowns, and only twice in rating. But so far, Smith is having a season that resembles DeBerg's in 1990, with 18 TDs and just 1 INT.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars  — Leading rushers were Corey Grant, who gained 56 yards on a fake punt, and Blake Bortles, who had five runs for 34 yards. But their defense continued to excel, forcing 10 punts and two turnovers, one of them returned 51 yards to set up the game-winning field goal. The Chargers gained 16 first downs in 16 possessions. #TealCurtain
9. Carolina Panthers  — Speaking about a Devin Funchess touchdown, Jon Gruden told viewers, "Cam Newton did that all himself." The play Gruden was speaking about was a quick screen, thrown behind the line of scrimmage, on which Funchess ran 32 yards after the catch. The word "all" is not a complicated piece of vocabulary, Jon.
10. Detroit Lions  — The Browns gained 26 first downs and 413 yards, won time of possession by 9 minutes, and scored 24 points, their second-highest total all season. Maybe the Lions were complacent against a winless opponent, but that's bad defense.
11. Washington  — Six of their nine games have been against teams with winning records, including two 7-2 teams, and the 8-1 Eagles twice. Yeah, they're 4-5. They've lost to good teams, plus they beat the Rams, and the Seahawks in Seattle. Their offensive line and defensive backfield are getting healthier, and five of their last six games are against teams with losing records.
12. Seattle Seahawks  — Richard Sherman ruptured his Achilles' tendon and is done for the year, but Earl Thomas is expected back in Week 11. Duane Brown and Kam Chancellor are day-to-day at this point, but the early indications are that Brown will likely play on Sunday and Chancellor likely not. In any case, Sherman is out, and several other key players are hurting. Russell Wilson leads the team in rushing, they couldn't generate a pass rush against the Cardinals, and they're committing way too many penalties. This is a good team, but facing some serious problems.
13. Los Angeles Chargers  — I hate moving them up after a loss, even an overtime loss to a good team, but with the Bills free-falling and the Cowboys' best players hurt or suspended, up they go.
14. Atlanta Falcons  — Scored 27 points, their most since Week 3. Just in the last year, the Falcons have scored more than 27 eleven times, but only two of those 11 games were this season. Devonta Freeman suffered his second concussion of the season and is unlikely to play in Week 11.
15. Dallas Cowboys  — Chaz Green and Byron Bell were disasters at left tackle, and reigning Coach of the Year Jason Garrett never helped them out with additional blockers on that side, resulting in 7 sacks of Dak Prescott from that position alone. Tyron Smith remains questionable, Zeke Elliott is definitely out, and Sean Lee is likely to miss multiple games with a bum hamstring. This rank is probably too high: with those guys out, I doubt this is an above-average team.
16. Oakland Raiders  — Worst passer rating allowed in the NFL this season, 110.5. That's about the same as Tom Brady (108.3), which means that every QB who faces the Raiders performs like Tom Brady.
17. Tennessee Titans  — Fourth straight win, but those four opponents they beat are a combined 10-27, and all having losing records. The last three wins were all by 4 points or less. They're the opposite of the Chargers: a team that is not as good as its 6-3 record implies.
18. Buffalo Bills  — Allowed more points the last two weeks (81) than the first five games combined (74). They're so reliant on takeaways, and it's not apparent that they can win without them. Buffalo has allowed 14 rushing touchdowns, by far the worst in the NFL. No one else has allowed more than 10.
19. Green Bay Packers  — Lost their top two RBs to injury. Aaron Jones has a knee injury that will sideline him for at least three weeks, while Ty Montgomery aggravated his rib injury and is week-to-week.
20. Cincinnati Bengals  — Vontaze Burfict has poor judgement and self-control, but brushing away an official's arm didn't merit getting ejected from the game. If I'm a Bengals or Jaguars fan, I'm pretty pissed about that, since Burfict is Cincinnati's best defensive player and his absence was probably the difference in the game.
21. Chicago Bears  — Mitchell Trubisky passed for a career-high 297 yards — 133 better than his previous record — and tied a career high with 1 touchdown pass! He also took 5 sacks and failed to lead any other TD drives, and the Bears lost at home to their biggest rivals, who were missing their quarterback, right tackle, top two running backs, and best defensive back. That challenge in the second quarter didn't help.
22. Baltimore Ravens  — Last in the NFL in passing yards. Their leading receiver, Jeremy Maclin, ranks 79th in receiving yardage (310).
23. Houston Texans  — Tom Savage entered the game with the longest active streak of consecutive passes without an interception, ending at 148. It almost makes you think "consecutive passes without an interception" is not a good indicator of quality. Will Fuller suffered cracked ribs in the loss and is expected to miss at least one game.
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers  — Brent Grimes got beat on the Jets' last-minute TD, but Tampa is 3-3 with Grimes, 0-3 without him.
25. New York Jets  — Scored a season-low 10 points, looking like the team most of us predicted in preseason. Josh McCown took 6 sacks against a defense that had 8 in the rest of the season combined.
26. Miami Dolphins  — I hate Monday Night Football broadcasts. I can't stand Suzy Kolber, who's all sleazy corporate marketing, and no passion for sport. I can't stand the platform promoting a proud bigot, Hank Williams, Jr. I can't stand house elf Sean McDonough, who escaped from Grimmauld Place to punish human audiences with conventional wisdom from the 1960s. And I can't stand ESPN's camera work and editorial decisions, such as showing dudes standing on the sideline doing nothing rather than showing replays of controversial calls or important penalties.
Near the end of the third quarter, for instance — and this is one example of many, not an isolated or unusual incident — a 16-yard gain was called back by a penalty on Laremy Tunsil. ESPN never showed the penalty, which turned a 1st-and-10 on the edge of field goal range into a 3rd-and-15 on the other side of midfield. Yeah, I rewound and watched the play (it was a good call), but viewers shouldn't have to rewind in that situation. It's the Turkey Hole all over again.
From start to finish, the MNF broadcast is a slap in the face to viewers who care about football. It makes sense for the network that brought us celebrity interviews during the game and Tony Kornheiser on the announcing team. This is more of the same.
27. Arizona Cardinals  — Let's forget about Drew Stanton's off-target passes and his receivers dropping the balls that were thrown accurately, so that we can discuss something more serious and fundamental: Al Riveron works for the mob. Riveron, the NFL's Senior Vice President of Officiating, decides all replay reviews, but rather than applying the "clear and obvious" standard dictated by league policy, makes decisions according to the needs and whims of organized crime. As an example, consider Riveron's reversal of Andre Ellington's fumble on Thursday night.
Ellington caught a pass, took at least three steps without being touched, fell down, and fumbled. Riveron changed the call on the field — which requires not merely a better-than-50% judgment, but clear and obvious evidence — from a fumble, which it clearly was, to an incomplete pass. NFL replay reviews are an avenue to corruption, and they create more mistakes than they correct. If the NFL can't get this "clear and obvious" thing right, the entire replay system should be disbanded. Right now, it's making games less fair, not more.
What's so irritating is that this system is so easy to fix: don't let one guy make the decision. Instead, have a panel of at least three people, and if any of them think the call should be upheld, it is. It's a clear and obvious solution. And don't let referees be on the panel! These assholes couldn't uphold their own decisions to order soup instead of salad. How can Mike Pereira and Dean Blandino be so sensible about this stuff, and none of their former employees have half a clue?
28. Denver Broncos  — 0-5 since the bye, with each loss by double-digits. They've given up more than 40 points in back-to-back weeks, and now rank 29th in scoring defense. The Broncos' decisions to fire Wade Phillips — an Assistant Coach of the Year candidate with the much-improved Rams — and T.J. Ward look worse every week.
29. Indianapolis Colts  — Jacoby Brissett, who threw multiple TD passes for the third consecutive week, is in the concussion protocol. The Colts have a bye next week and Brissett doesn't have a history of concussions, so he probably won't miss any games.
Brissett returned to the field following the hit that caused his concussion. I didn't see this game, so I don't know how or why Brissett continued to play after he was evaluated for a head injury. But I did see the Thursday night game in which Seattle's Russell Wilson faked a concussion evaluation and immediately returned to the field. The NFL simply can't allow that. If the NFL takes head injuries or referee authority seriously, Wilson should be suspended.
30. San Francisco 49ers  — First win of the season muddies the assumption that Jimmy Garoppolo will replace C.J. Beathard next week. The smart money still says yes, but Beathard is 1-3 as starter for a team that was 2-20 dating back to the beginning of last season, and he's a rookie, two years younger than Garoppolo.
31. New York Giants  — All-pro DT Damon Harrison was carted off the field with an ankle injury, making this awful team even worse.
32. Cleveland Browns  — Linebacker Jamie Collins, the former Patriot, tore his MCL and will miss the rest of the season.