WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 11
|11.15.11 at 7:17 am ET|
Week 10 concluded with news of some major injuries across the league. Matt Schaub and Matt Cassel both are out for the year. The Texans (13) finally looked like a team that could win a playoff game in Houston but now it seems unlikely with Matt Leinart next in line. The Chiefs (23) drop four spots after finding out Matt Cassel’s season is over and after losing to the Broncos. Michael Vick is another quarterback that suffered an injury on Sunday. The Eagles QB will have to deal with broken ribs as he tries to miraculously save the season for Philly.
There wasn’t much movement in the top five. Despite being upset by the Seahawks (25), the Ravens remain at No. 3. The two wins over the Steelers (4) and the fact the Saints (5) have some questionable losses this year as well were the major determining factors. The Packers (1) and 49ers (2) remain atop of the rest of the league.
The Bears (6) and Patriots (9) are among the teams on the rise after both were victorious in their respective divisional games. After starting the season on a roll, both the Lions (10) and Bills (17) have fallen in the ranks over the past few weeks.
Byes: Colts, Saints, Steelers, Texans
1. (1) Packers (9-0) ‘ As each week passes, it increasingly looks like the Packers are on a whole different level than the rest of the teams in the NFL. Green Bay hasn’t lost a game since Week 15 against the Patriots. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense have put up 30 or more points six times and 40 or more points four times. Whether its Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Jermichael Finley, Donald Driver, James Starks or another one of the many weapons in Rodgers arsenal, it seems like every offensive player contributes.
2. (2) 49ers (8-1) ‘ That’s seven straight wins now for the first-place 49ers. The magic number for making the playoffs is now three for Jim Harbaugh’s team. There are many reasons why they’ve been successful this year. The Niners are well coached, make few mistakes, and have a physical defense that hasn’t allowed a rushing touchdown all season.
3. (3) Ravens (6-3) ‘ It seems like the Ravens play to the level of their opponent. Two of their three losses have come against teams who don’t even have the slightest chance of making the playoffs. The offensive play-calling in the loss to the Seahawks was very questionable. When a team has a running back the caliber of Ray Rice, one would expect that he would have a hefty workload. However, he only had five carries while Joe Flacco threw the ball 52 times.
4. (4) Steelers (7-3) ‘ The Steelers are heading into their bye week coming off their first division win of the year. In the win against the Bengals, the “Steel Curtain” D forced two interceptions and didn’t allow a point in the fourth quarter. During the bye week, the Steelers should be focused on improving the offensive line and finding ways to get Rashard Mendenhall and the run game back on track.
5. (6) Saints (7-3) ‘ The NFC South is the Saints to lose after beating the Falcons on Sunday. Everyone knows how dominant Drew Brees and the offense is, but the Saints defense was the difference maker in the win against Atlanta. The Saints D has struggled mightily but came away with the biggest play of the season so far for the team. A big overtime stop on 4th down is the type of play a defense can build off.
6. (10) Bears (6-3) ‘ Behind a physical defense, a strong offensive line, a dynamic running back, and a quarterback who has limited his mistakes, the Bears have won four straight games. The offensive line and Jay Cutler have improved tremendously over that time. Cutler has thrown just six picks all year. Aaron Rodgers and Alex Smith are the only, every-game starting quarterbacks who have thrown fewer interceptions.
7. (5) Falcons (5-4) ‘ A veteran, talented team like the Falcons should be able to bounce back from Sunday’s devastating loss. They do need to see some improvement in specific areas. The pass rush has been inconsistent. The Falcons defense has sacked the quarterback just 15 times this year and is ranked at the bottom of league in that category. Roddy White needs to get back to becoming the dominating receiver he was last season. White is dropping passes and his yards, catches, and touchdown totals are all dramatically down from 2010.
8. (8) Giants (6-3) ‘ Living on the edge finally caught up to the Giants. Games have been decided by one score or less in five of their last six. The injury to linebacker Michael Boley seemed to be the major factor in Sunday’s loss. Boley is one of the leaders on that defense and wears the green dot on his helmet. It’s hard to believe Vernon Davis would have been wide open to score the go-ahead touchdown if Boley was in the game. The Giants have a great opportunity next week to gain more ground in the division with the Eagles scheduled to come to town.
9. (11) Patriots (6-3) ‘ The relentless, high-energy way the Patriots defense played on Sunday night is exactly what they’ll need to see on a consistent basis. Tom Brady was able to get his offense back on track with the no-huddle. The Patriots have had success with the no-huddle and it was easy to tell that it caught the Jets off guard. Forcing turnovers, scoring off those turnovers, and running a precise offense is exactly what Patriots fans have been accustomed to seeing over the years.
10. (7) Lions (6-3) ‘ The broken finger on Matthew Stafford‘s throwing hand has to concern coach Jim Schwartz. In Stafford’s first eight games he threw four interceptions; on Sunday he matched that number. The other troubling injury in Detroit is the concussion running back Jahvid Best is struggling to heal from. The Lions are 1-3 since starting the season 5-0. In the coming weeks we’ll learn a lot about if this team is “for real” with games against the Packers and Saints approaching.
11. (9) Jets (5-4) ‘ What kind of message does it send to the team when the head coach publicly says the quarterback made the “stupidest” mistake in football history? There’s no way the Jets can get benefit from a comment like that and something you will never hear from some of the best coaches in the NFL. Mark Sanchez has shown little signs of improvement this year and continues to make the same mistakes week-after-week. A “high football IQ” is something Sanchez lacks and that will prevent the Jets from reaching the Super Bowl until he gets smarter on the field.
12. (15) Cowboys (5-4) ‘ The Cowboys are on the rise with the emergence of rookie running back DeMarco Murray. The running game was usually a non-factor in the Cowboys offense but has been a valuable asset since Felix Jones went down with an injury. Another encouraging sign coming from the win against the Bills was the way the defense played. The Cowboys were prepared for Ryan Fitzpatrick and forced him to have his worst game of the season. Dallas is quietly gaining ground in the NFC East and is now just one game behind the Giants.
13. (12) Texans (7-3) ‘ Just when things are starting to look up for Texans fans, they’re hit with the news that starting quarterback Matt Schaub is going to miss the rest of the season with a “significant” foot injury. Matt Leinart will now be the starter and relied upon to hold the Texans first place lead in the AFC South. The remaining schedule for the Texans includes the Jaguars, Falcons, Bengals, Panthers, Colts, and Titans.
14. (13) Bengals (6-3) ‘ Despite losing, you could say the Bengals had a moral victory on Sunday against the Steelers. The young Bengals squad played well against a team many believe is one of the best in the league. Andy Dalton made some rookie mistakes in the fourth quarter and that was the difference maker. The biggest disappointment coming from the loss was that starting cornerback Leon Hall suffered a season-ending Achilles injury.
15. (20) Raiders (5-4) ‘ The big win on Thursday night gave Raiders fans many reasons to be happy. Carson Palmer played well, the pass rush sacked Philip Rivers six times, Michael Bush ran for over 150 yards, and the team took sole possession of first place. It was a true team win and it couldn’t have come at a better time. If Darren McFadden and Jacoby Ford can return from injury this Sunday against the Vikings, the Raiders will have a great chance to build on their division lead.
16. (21) Titans (5-4) ‘ Bad news for the Texans is good news for the Titans. The injury to Matt Schaub gives the Titans a great opportunity to gain some ground in the AFC South and perhaps take over the division lead. The road to overtaking the Texans won’t be easy with games against the Falcons and Saints approaching. It’s a good time for Chris Johnson to build off his best game of the season and help improve the Titans league worst run offense.
17. (14) Bills (5-4) ‘ The Bills have now lost three of their last four games. They’ve been outscored by a combined 54 points in their last two games. The potent offense that was putting up 30+ points at the beginning of the season has fallen hard. Turnovers have been a difference maker. Ryan Fitzpatrick has struggled to protect the football and has thrown eight interceptions in his last four games. He threw just four in his first five games.
18. (17) Chargers (4-5) ‘ The poor play of Philip Rivers, especially in the fourth quarter, has become a trend during the Chargers current four-game losing streak. Rivers has turned the ball over in key moments many times this year and it’s the main reason why the Chargers continue to lose. He has already tied his career high in interceptions with 15. The offensive line has been equally atrocious. Injuries and poor play have contributed to Rivers being the third most sacked quarterback in the league.
19. (16) Eagles (3-6) ‘ Yet another fourth quarter collapse for the Eagles. The team’s fifth choke job of the year has the Eagles on the brink of losing all hope for a chance at the playoffs. Currently, there are five teams in the wildcard race with a better record than the Eagles. The ship is sinking fast and there are too many holes to fix. The defense got lit up by one of the worst offensive teams in the league, DeSean Jackson is becoming a distraction, and Michael Vick is injured again.
20. (18) Buccaneers (4-5) ‘ Josh Freeman and the Bucs competed for the NFC South division title last year because the young quarterback limited his mistakes and protected the football. This year Freeman has already thrown 13 interceptions; last season he threw just six in 16 games. The run game has been equally as bad on offense for the Bucs. The defense is also responsible for the poor season. They were unable to get off the field during Sunday’s loss.
21. (25) Broncos (4-5) ‘ Tim Tebow completed just TWO passes on EIGHT attempts but the Broncos still managed to win their third game with Tebow behind center. The Broncos ran the ball 55 times despite losing both Knowshon Moreno and Willis McGahee in the first quarter. Although they’ve won under Tebow lately, it’s difficult to believe the Broncos can win consistently with such a limited pass game.
22. (23) Jaguars (3-6) ‘ Even the Jaguars can score points on offense when playing the Colts. Maurice Jones-Drew continues to prove he’s one of the elite running backs in the NFL. If the team can add some offensive weapons, the Jaguars will have a much easier time scoring points.
23. (19) Chiefs (4-5) ‘ The roller-coaster season has taken a turn for the worse for the Chiefs. Add Matt Cassel to the list of Chiefs players to suffer season ending injuries. Todd Haley‘s team has done a great job to this point attempting to overcome injuries to key players like Jamaal Charles, Eric Berry, and Tony Moeaki. However, this latest injury to their starting quarterback will most likely be the final blow.
24. (28) Cardinals (3-6) ‘ Backup quarterback John Skelton led the Cardinals to another victory and is starting to make people wonder whether he or Kevin Kolb should be the starter. Skelton has been shaky but has also found ways to win games when given the opportunity. Kolb meanwhile, is 1-6. It’s an intriguing debate but given everything the Cards have invested in Kolb, it’s safe to say he will be the starter, when healthy, for the foreseeable future.
25. (31) Seahawks (3-6) ‘ Marshawn Lynch is the difference maker for the Seahawks. It’s obvious that Seattle is not going to win many games with their passing game. When Lynch is healthy and getting a high number of carries, he can give his team a great chance to win week-to-week. When it mattered most, Lynch made big plays and picked up huge first downs against one of the best defenses in the league.
26. (29) Dolphins (2-7) ‘ The Dolphins are one of those teams that are better than what their record indicates. Coach Sparano has finally found the right way to use Reggie Bush with a healthy mix of carries and receptions. Bush’s production has picked up dramatically over the last three weeks.
26. (24) Vikings (2-7) ‘ Right now, the three other teams in the NFC North are on a whole different playing field. The Vikings have lost nine straight division games. Penalties, turnovers, and undisciplined play has plagued Leslie Frazier‘s team. Christian Ponder looks like he could be the quarterback of the future but the team needs to add more talent on both sides of the ball if they want to be able to compete in their division.
27. (22) Redskins (3-6) ‘ Everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong in Washington since the team opened its season with a promising 3-1 record. The Redskins are in the midst of a five game losing streak that has brought quarterback changes and an unthinkable amount of injuries. The latest offensive player to be placed on IR was WR Leonard Hankerson. The Redskins passing game finally showed some life with the rookie Hankerson hauling in eight passes against the Dolphins; but he suffered a season-ending hip injury late in the game.
28. (30) Rams (2-7) ‘ When Sam Bradford is 100% healthy, the Rams offense will be a lot better because Brandon Lloyd and Steven Jackson are consistently producing each week. After what we saw from Bradford last year, it’s strange that his first win of 2011 came in November.
30. (26) Browns (3-6) ‘ Touchdowns are a rarity in Cleveland. The Browns offense has just 12 total touchdowns this season. Colt McCoy has a lack of weapons around him and that is proven each week with the limited production from the offense.
31. (27) Panthers (2-7) ‘ The Panthers have allowed 30 or more points five times this year. The defense is one of the worst in the league and much of that can be credited to injuries to players like Jon Beason and Ron Edwards.
32. (32) Colts (0-10) ‘ The Colts are now the worst team in the league by two games. Their six remaining games are against the Panthers, Patriots, Ravens, Titans, Texans, and Jaguars. The Colts could very well become just the second team in NFL history to go 0-16.
Which NFL teams are in your top 10? Leave your opinions/comments below or e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can send comments via Twitter to @JoeytheFishWEEI.