Tuesday, December 5, 2017

2017 NFL Week 13 Power Rankings

By Brad Oremland

Dear readers: I'm preparing my annual Pro Bowl column, which will post tomorrow, so this week's power rankings are abbreviated. We'll begin, as always, with Game Balls and Five Quick Hits. Then you'll get my take on the Giants firing Ben McAdoo and Jerry Reese, followed by a list form of my usual power ratings. The usual column format will return for Week 14; I hope you enjoy this week's edition in the meantime.

Week 13 Game Balls

Offense — Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks. Repeatedly bought time and created positive plays, finishing with 3 touchdowns and a 118.6 passer rating in Seattle's upset of the Eagles.

Defense — Xavien Howard, DB, Miami Dolphins. Five passes defensed, 2 interceptions, and a touchdown.

Special Teams — Ryan Switzer, PR, Dallas Cowboys. His 83-yard punt return touchdown put Washington in a huge hole and gave Dallas lasting momentum.

Rookie — Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints. Gained 126 yards from scrimmage and scored 2 touchdowns, against a top-10 defense. Kamara has 8 TDs in the last five games, with over 100 YFS each week.

Honorable Mentions — QB Alex Smith, ER Eric Lee, PR Tarik Cohen

Five Quick Hits

* Rob Gronkowski had 9 catches for 147 yards, and a dirty hit on Tre'Davious White. Gronkowski is suspended for next week's game, which is absolutely the appropriate decision.

* Three teams this week gained under 100 net passing yards: the Bears (85), Bills (85), and Packers (77). Other than maybe Curt Menefee, I don't think anyone is calling for Brett Hundley to supplant Aaron Rodgers.

* Matthew Stafford and Tyrod Taylor both left the field on Sunday with worrisome injuries, but both appear to have avoided season-ending damage. Early indications are that Stafford will play in Week 14, with Taylor day-to-day.

* Following a Dallas TD, NFL Network went to commercial at 10:58 pm Eastern on Thursday night. At 11:01, they showed a kickoff for a touchback, then went to commercial again. At 11:04, viewers saw two plays before an injury timeout and another set of commercials. Between 10:58 and 11:08, viewers saw two plays and a dozen ads. That's inexcusable, I think.

* I loved Tony Dungy's dismissal of the Titans as a serious contender: "This is not a Corvette, this is a dump truck." Harsh, but funny.

The Giants Clean House

One week after head coach Ben McAdoo tried to save his job by benching longtime QB Eli Manning, the New York Giants have fired both McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese.

McAdoo's firing has been inevitable for weeks; the only question was whether he might make it to season's end. I don't disagree with the decision, but I think the team may have acted prematurely in parting with Reese, and I believe criticism of McAdoo has been harsher than his record merits. In 2013, the Giants went 7-9. In 2014 and 2015, they went 6-10. Last year, a lot of things went right and they finished 11-5. For reasons I still can't understand, that led many people to project the Giants as Super Bowl contenders in the 2017 season, and it's the shortfall relative to expectations that really doomed McAdoo and Reese.

In his final 28 games with the Giants, Tom Coughlin went 10-18 (.357). Coaching the same team, with the same key players, McAdoo went 13-15 (.464). That is an improvement. This season has been a disaster, obviously. But with Eli Manning 36 years old and visibly declining, with a running back corps led by Orleans Darkwa and an offensive line that it was Reese's responsibility to rebuild, with Odell Beckham out for the year, with no adequate linebackers on the roster, playing in a tough division and a tough conference and getting a few bad breaks, a 2-10 record is hardly unfathomable.

To me, the argument for firing McAdoo is that — for all the things that have gone wrong, and aren't his fault — he has mismanaged his players. He doesn't seem to have good relationships with them, and some of the Giants' struggles appear to be driven by lack of effort rather than lack of talent. That's a coach's responsibility.

It's not my intention to absolve McAdoo of poor coaching, or to argue that he should have kept his job. But McAdoo took over a bad team — a team that had three straight losing seasons — and the Giants' Super Bowl expectations this season were neither realistic nor fair. Defensive coordinator and former Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo takes over as the interim coach. That's a sensible choice based on experience, but the Giants rank worst in the NFL in yards allowed, and they have good players on defense. The offense is the side of the ball with a talent deficiency.

That brings us back to Eli Manning. McAdoo's decision to bench Manning appears to have been the impetus for his termination, and it appears likely that Manning will return to the starting lineup for the final four games. I frankly don't understand any strong opinion about the Giants' starting QB over the next month. I guess I don't see the downside to playing Geno Smith, who offers versatility and upside that Eli doesn't at this point in his career. The team is out of the playoff race and has no productive future with Manning, so unless you value a sentimental send-off on a terrible team or you're convinced that Geno is unplayable, I'm not sure what the team gains from reverting to Manning. Smith was adequate on Sunday against the Raiders.

Few people were surprised by the decisions to sack McAdoo and start Eli. I am a little surprised that the team parted with Reese, who had been with the organization since 1994. Reese replaced Ernie Accorsi as general manager in 2007, leading the Giants to a 90-82 record and two Super Bowl victories. Reese was roundly and rightly criticized for failing to address deficiencies in the offensive backfield and line during the offseason, and he deserves some blame for hiring McAdoo (though Giants fans would have revolted if the team let McAdoo leave two years ago). The Giants never traded down in any round of the draft with Reese as GM, which is not an efficient use of resources. But Reese also drafted Odell Beckham in 2014 and Landon Collins in 2015; he signed Damon Harrison, Janoris Jenkins, and Olivier Vernon in 2016. I understand why the team changed directions, and I understand the appeal of a top-to-bottom overhaul, but throwing Reese out with McAdoo strikes me as an overreaction, and something the team might regret a few years from now.

Week Thirteen NFL Power Rankings

Brackets indicate last week's rank.

1. New England Patriots [2]
2. Minnesota Vikings [3]
3. Philadelphia Eagles [1]
4. Pittsburgh Steelers [4]
5. Los Angeles Rams [5]
6. New Orleans Saints [6]
7. Los Angeles Chargers [7]
8. Carolina Panthers [8]
9. Atlanta Falcons [9]
10. Jacksonville Jaguars [10]
11. Baltimore Ravens [13]
12. Seattle Seahawks [14]
13. Detroit Lions [11]
14. Tennessee Titans [15]
15. Cincinnati Bengals [16]
16. Oakland Raiders [19]
17. Washington [12]
18. Green Bay Packers [21]
19. Buffalo Bills [17]
20. Dallas Cowboys [23]
21. Arizona Cardinals [20]
22. Houston Texans [22]
23. New York Jets [25]
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers [24]
25. Miami Dolphins [27]
26. Kansas City Chiefs [18]
27. San Francisco 49ers [29]
28. Chicago Bears [26]
29. Indianapolis Colts [28]
30. New York Giants [30]
31. Denver Broncos [31]
32. Cleveland Browns [32]

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