After another entertaining week in the NFL, there are a bunch of changes in the Week 11 power rankings.
1. New England Patriots (8-1) | Last week: 1
I expect the Patriots will have their rushing attack and run defense sorted out a bit after the bye week, as those were the two most notable areas of weakness in the previous two games. It’ll be fun to watch how they fare this Sunday in a matchup of the last two Super Bowl champions, especially after Tom Brady said that he obviously isn’t over the Big Game loss from a couple of seasons ago. New England remains the clear No. 1 team to me.
2. Baltimore Ravens (7-2) | Last week: 4 (+2)
People have understandably made a lot of Lamar Jackson’s sensational touchdown run from last Sunday versus the Bengals, but the former Heisman Trophy is basically playing as well in the league as he did at Louisville—there’ll be a lot more of those types of plays moving forward. It seems rather pointless to have serious discussions about the leading MVP candidate in middle of the season, but I really do not understand why Russell Wilson—who is phenomenal—is seen as the clear favorite by many people; Jackson went and beat the Seahawks in Seattle and also could not be stopped by an elite Patriots defense. Anyway, this Sunday will be a big test for Baltimore’s defense when they face Houston.
3. Seattle Seahawks (8-2) | Last week: 5 (+2)
Monday night’s huge victory at Levi’s Stadium puts the Seahawks in the thick of the battle for first place in the NFC West as well as in position for the potential top seed in the NFC playoffs—playing in Seattle would be tough for opposing teams in January. Jadeveon Clowney has his best game as a Seahawk, and that acquisition before the season looks like a complete steal. The team debut for Josh Gordon was very impressive, as the former All-Pro made an impact in critical moments in the game despite not playing close to a full slate of snaps; he looks like a potential difference-maker moving forward.
4. Green Bay Packers (8-2) | Last week: 6 (+2)
These next three spots are among the most difficult to rank this week, but Green Bay gets the nod at No. 4 for Week 11. It took some time for the snow to really pick up, but it was great to see a wintry Lambeau game in early November—hopefully we see more of that around the league over the next few months. Matt LaFleur’s offense was able to get back on track with a solid all-around performance including three more touchdowns from Aaron Jones, but the defense has been somewhat concerning in recent weeks. The Packers now have their bye before a matchup with the 49ers that could be for first place in the conference.
5. New Orleans Saints (7-2) | Last week: 2 (-3)
The Saints just could not get much of anything going against the Falcons, which was the biggest surprise of Week 10 considering the game was in the Superdome. As stated in the past, games like that happen sometimes, and New Orleans should bounce back quickly—but they’ll have to do it on the road at Tampa Bay. Teddy Bridgewater is awesome, but there should be zero quarterback controversy despite Bridgewater being 5-0 and Drew Brees being 2-2 this season, and I don’t think that is or will become an issue for the Saints.
6. San Francisco 49ers (8-1) | Last week: 3 (-3)
Let me start with the idiocy of ESPN Monday Night Football announcers Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland for claiming the moment was “too big” for young kicker Chase McLaughlin, who missed the potential game-winning kick in overtime—clearly, after he made the game-tying field goal with even more pressure at the end of regulation, he showed the moment is not too big for him (and even if Tessitore was right, he should just tone it done a bit and not bury the rookie, especially considering he probably can’t even throw a football 25 yards himself). Misses happen, and Tessitore and McFarland sounded and acted like a couple of clowns—the moment has been too big for the both of them since they stepped in the booth last year. McLaughlin should hold his head high and not listen to the critics. Anyway, we’ll see how San Francisco responds to their first loss of the season when they face a Cardinals team that moved the ball on them on Halloween. Offensively, Jimmy Garoppolo could obviously use George Kittle and Emmanuel Sanders in the lineup.
7. Kansas City Chiefs (6-4) | Last week: 7
I wanted to put the Chiefs lower than this in the power rankings, but all these teams in the three-to-four-loss range are really close together. The Kansas City defense showed signs of promise earlier this season, but they played very poorly down the stretch against the Titans—the game-winning drive by Tennessee seemed way too easy, and it’s going to be incredibly difficult for the Chiefs to win a championship if the defense plays like that. One positive for Andy Reid’s squad is that they committed to Damien Williams as their top running back again; despite Williams’ costly fumble returned for a touchdown, he has been an explosive player dating back to the end of last year and should get a heavy workload down the stretch.
8. Minnesota Vikings (7-3) | Last week: 11 (+3)
Dalvin Cook handled 33 touches and keyed Minnesota’s road win against the Cowboys on Sunday night, but Kirk Cousins made some timely throws and avoided mistakes throughout the night—it had to feel good for Cousins and the Vikings to get a primetime win over a winning team, especially on the road. However, it is a bit of a problem that Mike Zimmer’s defense was gashed through the air, though they were able to take Ezekiel Elliott out of the game and made a stop when they needed to late. The entire unit should have a stronger all-around game this Sunday against the Broncos.
9. Buffalo Bills (6-3) | Last week: 9
I also wanted to drop the Bills a bit in the power rankings, but I feel better about them than some of the teams behind them, especially when you consider they’ll be favored in the next two games with a great chance to get to 8-3. Kicking woes hurt in a close loss at Cleveland, but Josh Allen moved the ball well through the air—look for the second-year quarterback to do more damage with his legs after two touchdowns (one on a designed quarterback draw and one on a sneak) versus the Browns. Allen must stay healthy, but his legs are an uncommon weapon that can be utilized in close games.
10. Houston Texans (6-3) | Last week: 12 (+2)
The Texans had off, but Week 10 was a solid week for them after the Colts were upset by the Dolphins. Houston is back in first place in the AFC South ahead of a highly anticipated matchup against the Ravens this Sunday. It’ll be a boost if the offense is able to get Will Fuller back in the lineup, especially with second-year receiver Keke Coutee apparently in the doghouse this season.
11. Oakland Raiders (5-4) | Last week: 15 (+4)
While offensive line issues have plagued some teams (like one we’ll get to in a couple of spots), the massive offensive line for the Raiders has been a big reason Jon Gruden’s team is enjoying a strong second season in his second go-round with the franchise. Stud rookie running back Josh Jacobs has been as good if not better than expected when Oakland took him with one of their three first-round picks in this year’s draft, and it was a very promising sign that fourth overall pick Clelin Ferrell was able to record 2.5 sacks against the Chargers last Thursday night. The schedule on paper looks good for the Raiders, and they are a legitimate threat in the AFC West.
12. Pittsbrugh Steelers (5-4) | Last week: 17 (+5)
The Steelers and their resume this season are looking better by the week. As stated last week, after getting routed in Foxboro in Week 1, Pittsburgh’s three losses are to the Seahawks, 49ers, and Ravens (the No. 2, No. 4, and No. 6 teams in the power rankings), all by one possession. The defense was arguably given a break with the defensive touchdown by Minkah Fitzpatrick coming on an apparent fumble that looked like an incomplete pass, but they still shut down a Rams offense that had two weeks to prepare for the matchup. Pittsburgh has a group that’s up there with San Francisco behind New England among 2019 defenses.
13. Los Angeles Rams (5-4) | Last week: 8 (-5)
The Rams could still be a bit higher in the power rankings given their upside, as their loss to the Steelers did come on the road at a tough-to-play Heinz Field. But the offensive line play is causing major issues for Sean McVay’s offense this season, and now center Brian Allen is out for the season. As we’ve seen in the past with otherwise well-coaches and talented offenses (like the Chip Kelly Eagles in 2015 and the recent Falcons teams), subpar play on the offensive line makes it difficult to win in the NFL. The Rams can still get this turned around, but they have a tough task facing the Bears this Sunday night. He’s not playing up to his ability this season, but criticism of Jared Goff is misguided—he simply needs better protection.
14. Indianapolis Colts (5-4) | Last week: 10 (-4)
It’s been a disappointing couple of weeks for the Colts, but it doesn’t help that new franchise quarterback Jacoby Brissett has missed most of the past two games with his knee injury, while star receiver T.Y. Hilton has also been out. I don’t like that tight end Eric Ebron voiced displeasure with his role with his team doing well this season, and it felt like balls were forced his way during last Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins. On the positive side, All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard was exceptional in the Week 10 loss, and the defense has shown they can shut offenses down.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (5-4) | Last week: 14 (-1)
The Eagles just had their bye week, but they’re another team that had a good week off, with the Cowboys losing to bring the two teams to a tie for first in the NFC East. These next two weeks (home games versus the Patriots and Seahawks) are going to be a challenge, but the schedule really lightens up after that. Right tackle Lane Johnson will get a chance to back up his trash talk against the Patriots when they meet this Sunday afternoon.
16. Dallas Cowboys (5-4) | Last week: 13 (-3)
Meanwhile, Dallas was not able to get a home win over Minnesota, and their remaining season schedule looks a lot tougher on paper than the Eagles’ schedule. I really don’t like to question professional coaches and players, but the play-calling toward the end of the Sunday night loss was puzzling—particularly the fourth-down play where Ezekiel Elliott ran an out route against one of the best coverage linebackers in the league (Eric Kendricks). It appeared to be a play designed with Elliott as the main read, which is a mistake considering the Dallas receivers were doing damage all night. The Cowboys will look to keep their passing attack hot this weekend against a struggling Lions defense.
17. Carolina Panthers (5-4) | Last week: 16 (-1)
It was in a very narrow losing effort in which his team scored just 16 points, but second-year quarterback Kyle Allen earned a ton of respect from his teammates with the way he hung in and battled at Lambeau Field—the performance bodes well for Carolina moving forward, especially with it looking likely they’re going to go with Allen over Cam Newton in 2020 and beyond. The Panthers simply must get their run defense on track, as it’s been gashed in recent weeks.
18. Los Angeles Chargers (4-6) | Last week: 18
They were not able to get a Thursday night victory at Oakland, but I really like the way the Chargers have played the past couple of weeks, featuring star running back Melvin Gordon and pounding the rock to set up play-action passes with Philip Rivers. The great veteran quarterback had an off game against the Raiders, but the throws were there and his team still had an opportunity to win the game. Despite the loss, LA can get to within one game in the AFC West with a victory this Monday night in Mexico City.
19. Chicago Bears (4-5) | Last week: 20 (+1)
Matt Nagy’s offense has performed well versus the Lions in the last couple of seasons, and Mitchell Trubisky was able to throw three touchdowns with no interceptions in the Bears’ 30-13 Week 10 win—the third-year quarterback will look to keep the momentum when he faces a Rams team he struggled against last year. On defense, the unit will look to have a repeat performance of that game last season, when they held the Rams out of the end zone—but the game will be in Los Angeles instead of Chicago this time around.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-5) | Last week: 21 (+1)
Gardner Minshew did a very nice job filling in for Nick Foles over the past several weeks, but the former Super Bowl MVP quarterback helps make the Jaguars an extremely dangerous team down the stretch with the way he played in Philadelphia late in the season in the past couple of years. A potent running game with a committed Leonard Fournette and one of the league’s best defenses make Jacksonville an intriguing team with Foles under center.
21. Tennessee Titans (5-5) | Last week: 23 (+2)
The Titans redeemed their mistake from Week 9, as they featured Derrick Henry (23 carries, 188 yards, two touchdowns) throughout their Week 10 victory against the Chiefs. Kansas City’s defense was clearly worn down by the end of the game, and Ryan Tannehill led the Titans right down the field with chunk plays for the game-winning score. There’s no question that has to be the blueprint for Tennessee moving forward—featuring Henry to wear down defenses and then creating huge plays both on the ground and through the air—as it worked last season for them. It’s pretty funny that Henry has been one of the best players in the league at any position dating back to last year considering so many people (that probably don’t even watch him play) previously asserted that he’s just some huge unathletic guy that isn’t a good running back.
22. Detroit Lions (3-5-1) | Last week: 19 (-3)
The season is going south for Matt Patricia’s team, but it’s a positive sign for the second-year head coach that his team battled with backup quarterback Jeff Driskel—on short notice—at Chicago. Detroit making a run, which is unlikely now, probably hinged on Matthew Stafford’s play, but the franchise did the right thing by making the player’s health the No. 1 priority. Stafford’s back injury could keep him out for longer, but it might not matter what the Lions do on offense if the struggling pass defense can’t slow down the Cowboys this Sunday.
23. Atlanta Falcons (2-7) | Last week: 24 (+1)
It wasn’t an extremely dynamic offensive effort by the Falcons, but this is the type of win I and other believers in the team expected to see entering the season. After seven sacks in the first eight games, Atlanta broke out for six sacks of Drew Brees in their upset win at the Superdome—changes made to the defensive side of the ball clearly helped the pass defense improve, at least for one week. Winning eight consecutive games against a tough schedule won’t be easy and probably wouldn’t even be enough for a playoff spot, but the Falcons could be a dangerous team that won’t be fun to face for playoff contenders.
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-6) | Last week: 27 (+3)
Former first-round cornerback Vernon Hargreaves was cut by the Bucs for what the team called a lack of hustle, and the release puts more pressure on the younger cornerbacks—but at least Jamel Dean, who played very well when he was inserted for Hargreaves, will now get more valuable playing experience in Todd Bowles’ defense. Tampa Bay certainly has room for improvement in the secondary following their continued struggles after Christian Kirk scored three touchdowns against them. Offensively, it was nice to see the uber-talented O.J. Howard get going with his first touchdown of the season, but we’ll see if he’s still utilized more moving forward.
25. Arizona Cardinals (3-6-1) | Last week: 22 (-3)
Kyler Murray set the rookie record for consecutive completions without an interception, but it ended at a bad time with a costly interception by the aforementioned Jamel Dean. Despite the late turnover, Murray is obviously off to an extremely promising start to his career—I’m anxious to see how he fares in his second matchup versus the 49ers after he had success against them a couple of weeks ago.
26. Denver Broncos (3-6) | Last week: 25 (-1)
The Broncos probably wish the bye didn’t come after a win, but they’ll look to keep the efficient play going by remaining in the game against the Vikings this Sunday. Denver has a top-five pass defense, but the main focus as they look to build a winning streak will likely be stopping Dalvin Cook on the ground.
27. Cleveland Browns (3-6) | Last week: 28 (+1)
Every win is certainly enjoyable in the NFL, but the Browns strike me as a team that might get complacent after beating the Bills—they had a few days to believe that they proved people wrong and have celebration photos for social media. I could be way off, but we’ll see how they come out against the Steelers tomorrow night. The team immediately used Kareem Hunt in his first game of 2019 following his eight-game suspension, and the two-running-back sets with Nick Chubb were effective. Chubb should remain the clear top back for Cleveland, but nothing would surprise me.
28. Miami Dolphins (2-7) | Last week: 29 (+1)
First-year head coach Brian Flores is doing an excellent job with a subpar roster, and it looks like the Dolphins won’t be particularly close to the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft with the way they’re playing right now—the schedule for the rest of the season appears to present a pretty good opportunity for a few more wins. The move back to Ryan Fitzpatrick as the team’s starting quarterback indicated that the coaching staff has little to do with the front office’s tanking strategy, and the players in the locker room likely respect Flores for playing the best players.
29. New York Jets (2-7) | Last week: 31 (+2)
Jamal Adams gives maximum effort every week and is fun to watch, but I thought it was pretty comical that he said New York was his city during the Jets’ win over the Giants in the Battle of New York—Adams made a fantastic play on his strip-sack touchdown, but he just wanted to go to the Cowboys last month before the trade deadline. Regardless, the Jets needed a win like that over their New York rival to get some momentum going, and I like Sam Darnold’s mindset when he said the team is not out of the playoff race if they win every game.
30. New York Giants (2-8) | Last week: 26 (-4)
Saquon Barkley being held to just one rushing yard on 13 carries is one of the most surprising stat lines of the season, and the star running back had no place to run in the loss to the Jets. The offensive line—at least for the running game—was supposed to be an area of strength for the Giants with Barkley behind them, but the lack of success there has been a big reason for New York’s struggles this season. They’ll have the bye week to sort things out there and with the defense.
31. Washington Redskins (1-8) | Last week: 30 (-1)
Dwayne Haskins will start for the rest of the season for the Redskins, and this might an audition for the rookie quarterback heading into 2020, as Washington figures to be in position to select another quarterback high in the draft, with a new head coach potentially wanting his own guy. Washington is healthier off the bye, with running back Derrius Guice returning from injured reserve—expect the Redskins to run the ball a ton with Guice and Adrian Peterson.
32. Cincinnati Bengals (0-9) | Last week: 32
It’s a shame that A.J. Green’s season debut continues to be put off, as the Pro Bowl receiver has been unable to get to full strength, and it’s difficult to blame him for not going out there with the risk of re-injury. Cincinnati got destroyed, but Ryan Finley didn’t play poorly in his first NFL start, especially when you consider the circumstances. After a very bad first half running the ball, head coach Zac Taylor is probably determined to get the rushing attack going after handing Joe Mixon 30 carries.