We have a brand new team sitting atop the Power Rankings.
The Niners’ four-week reign is over. San Francisco jacked the crown and scepter from the Patriots, who ruled our world for nine weeks. Now it’s the Ravens who have staged a coup d’etat. Our advice to Baltimore? Build a moat. Buy alligators. Sharpen your swords. Hide the women and children.
This battle is won … but the war will rage on into February.
NOTE: The previous rankings referenced in the lineup below are from the Week 13 Power Rankings.
Welcome to the top,
Ravens. To the top of
the AFC standings, and the top of the Power Rankings. (I’ll let John Harbaugh decide what means more to him.) Over the past two months, we’ve watched the
Ravens drop nukes from above on teams that never had a chance.
On Sunday, we learned Baltimore can we win a bare-knuckle street fight when necessary, too. The NFC-leading
49ers were worthy competition, but the
Ravens locked in on defense and got
another money moment from Justin Tucker, the greatest kicker on Earth. The
Ravens showed they can win when
Lamar Jackson isn’t at his best, and their 10-2 record includes victories over the Niners,
Rams (combined record of 45-10 against non-Baltimore opponents). This is the best team in football — now we’ll find out if it can sustain this incredible momentum to the
Was there ever really a doubt? We have nearly a decade of evidence telling us
Russell Wilson will never lose a game like that at CenturyLink Field. With the stakes sky-high, the home crowd roaring and millions of fans watching on TV … the
Seahawks and their star quarterback always find a way.
A 37-30 win over the Vikings shifted the complexion of the NFC: The
Seahawks, on the strength of their 10-2 record and head-to-head win over the Niners, jump into
the No. 2 seed in the NFC and move into first place in the NFC West with
a Week 17 rematch vs. San Francisco looming. The combination of
Chris Carson and
Rashaad Penny was brilliant against Minnesota, the two backs combining to go over 200 scrimmage yards with three touchdowns. Penny finally seems to have found his role and it makes the Seattle offense that much more difficult to stop.
Saints didn’t play their cleanest brand of football in November, but they executed well enough to achieve their first major goal of the season.
A 26-18 win over the
Falcons made the
Saints the first team to clinch a playoff spot. The NFC South champs now set their sights on
the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC. Last Thursday night will be remembered for the relentlessness of the front seven, which made
Matt Ryan‘s life miserable in a nine-sack assault.
Cameron Jordan led the charge, finishing with four sacks, including
the game-clinching takedown in the final minute. Jordan is up to 13.5 sacks on the season — 3.5 shy of the team single-season record of 17, set by La’Roi Glover in 2000. Speaking of the No. 1 seed, the
Saints will put themselves on the inside track if they can
take out the 49ers on Sunday.
We’ve watched the
Patriots‘ offense scuffle for two months now. Given the organization’s unmatched track record, many assumed the Bill Belichick-led braintrust would eventually figure it out.
This is what the Patriots do. But
Sunday night’s loss to the
Texans makes you seriously wonder. The Pats filled up the box score and made things look respectable with three late touchdown drives against a coasting Houston defense, but a deeper look tells a much different story. As
Bill Barnwell pointed out, Brady was 9-of-25 passing for 90 yards with an interception before New England went on its first touchdown drive late in the third quarter. The veteran QB ranks near the bottom of the league in a host of passing categories since Week 4, which tells us that a) Brady is in decline, or b) the structure around the legendary star is faulty. It might be both of those things.
Aaron Rodgers finally found a dependable second banana in the
Packers‘ receiving group? Green Bay hoped either
Marquez Valdes-Scantling or
Geronimo Allison would make the leap in 2019, but the real breakout candidate might be
Allen Lazard, who caught 3 of 3 targets for 103 yards and a touchdown in
a 31-13 win over the
Davante Adams (two touchdowns on Sunday) remains the clear-cut No. 1 option in Green Bay’s attack, but Lazard could be a huge piece for Rodgers, who appears to be gaining confidence in the undrafted second-year pro. Rodgers could also use some more help in the backfield, where
Aaron Jones has gone cold in recent weeks. Green Bay’s offense has been at its best when Matt LaFleur has been able to utilize Jones’ ability as a runner and a receiver. Don’t be surprised if the
Packers make that a priority
this week against the Redskins.
Deshaun Watson kept it real after the
28-22 win over the
Patriots on Sunday night: He really wanted to beat
Tom Brady before the legendary quarterback called it a career. Consider it
another goal achieved for the young star. Watson was the better quarterback on Sunday, throwing three touchdown passes and catching another(!) in a victory that keeps Houston alone atop the AFC South and
pumps up their chances of landing a first-round bye come January. Watson has now thrown 21 touchdowns against just three interceptions in eight career prime-time games — he’s the Anti-Cousins. Watson’s performance was even more impressive considering the opponent: New England’s defense entered Sunday having allowed just four touchdown passes while piling up 20 interceptions.
Watson’s diving score on the
Texans‘ expertly designed and executed trick play felt like a statement to the defending
Super Bowl champions and longtime Houston bullies.
We’re not afraid of you anymore.
It was there for the
Vikings. Minnesota ball, trailing by four, less than four minutes to play, three timeouts at their disposal.
Kirk Cousins took the field looking to build on a strong night and exorcise some Monday night ghosts. But the
Vikings went five-and-out and the offense never saw the field again in
a 37-30 loss to the Seahawks. Cousins falls to 0-8 on the
Monday Night Football stage, but put this loss on a
Vikings defense that got carved up on the ground by
Chris Carson and
Rashaad Penny and through the air by
Russell Wilson. Cousins’ job was made that much more difficult when star running back
Dalvin Cook exited the game midway through the third quarter with
a clavicle injury. The
Vikings are still in excellent position to
claim a playoff spot, but they might have to win out to have any chance at the NFC North title.
We see you,
Bills. We all see you now. Sean McDermott’s squad went to Dallas and
laid a Thanksgiving whooping on the supposedly superior
Cowboys, putting themselves on the map as a legitimate contender in the AFC. At 9-3, the
Bills have a stranglehold on a wild-card spot and remain within striking distance of the hardly invincible
Patriots in the AFC East. There were standout performances up and down the roster against the
Cowboys, but this game could be a flashpoint for
Josh Allen, who played like a franchise quarterback in front of a huge national audience. Allen led six consecutive scoring drives against Dallas and dished out some punishment on
a third-quarter touchdown run that might be the highlight of his young career to date. Now the
Bills get extra time to prepare for their biggest challenge of the season: a home game
against the surging Ravens. Dismiss the
Bills at your own risk.
Things didn’t start well for Duck Hodges and the
Steelers. Pittsburgh had accumulated 9 yards of total offense midway through the second quarter as the visiting
Browns built a 10-0 lead. But then Hodges warmed up,
James Washington started making plays and Pittsburgh’s defense — always the catalyst during this stunning return from 0-3 irrelevance — did the rest in
a 20-13 win over the
Browns. This victory had to be the sweetest of the season for the
Steelers, who exacted revenge on a
Browns team that bullied them in more ways than one just two weeks earlier. In
that Week 11 matchup,
Mason Rudolph melted down against an aggressive
Browns defense. Hodges kept his cool (not having to face the suspended
Myles Garrett surely helped) and delivered on enough downfield throws to keep Cleveland honest and allow Pittsburgh to regain control of the game. Mike Tomlin deserves serious Coach of the Year consideration.
Rams on Sunday was like taking a trip in a time machine all the way back to the innocent days of … last November. Back then, Los Angeles was still the envy of the league, thanks to a relentless offensive attack. We hadn’t seen much of that this season, at least not before
Jared Goff threw for more than 400 yards in a little more than three quarters
against the Cardinals.
Robert Woods had 13 catches for 172 yards and
Todd Gurley chipped in with 115 yards from scrimmage and a score. It was a perfect get-right game for the
a humbling butt-whipping at the hands of the Ravens two Mondays ago. The big question: Was this the sign of a turnaround for the
Rams … or was it merely a mirage against one of the league’s have-nots? This week’s
prime-time showdown against the
Seahawks will tell us a lot.
We’ve reached rock bottom of the Jason Garrett era.
A 26-15 loss to the visiting
Thanksgiving was sobering confirmation of a hard truth in Dallas: The
Cowboys, with all their marquee talent, are just another team, as mediocre as their 6-6 record says they are. After the loss, an emotional Jerry Jones spoke of “looking ahead at winning four or five straight and helping write a story they will talk about,” but he sounded like an owner talking like a fan, blind optimism blotting out cold reality. Jones says that Garrett’s job
is safe, but the pressure is on the coach in a way it’s never been before. Playing in a weak NFC East, the
Cowboys still have the inside track to a division title and home playoff game. But nothing should be assumed at this point. Dallas is a flawed team, perhaps fatally so.
Things have gone sideways in a flash for the
Raiders. Back-to-back losses have dropped Oakland to 6-6 and out of the race in the AFC West. The playoffs are still a possibility
via the wild-card route, but it’s hard to get too excited about a team that’s been outscored 74-12 over the course of eight days.
Derek Carr isn’t fond of the reputation that he can’t win in the cold, but performances like we saw
at Arrowhead with a kickoff temperature of 36 degrees Fahrenheit won’t do much to alter the narrative. Carr threw two interceptions, including
the game-icing pick-six in the second quarter, and struggled to create any spark with a wide receiver group that combined for 8 yards receiving through three quarters. Silver & Black-related pessimism is understandable, but things will shift in a hurry if Oakland
knocks off the surging Titans at the Black Hole. The
Raiders have been a menace at home all year.
Colts are sitting at home come playoff time, this will be the game that sticks with them the most. Leading the
Titans 17-7 in the third quarter, Indy looked to be in prime position to solidify its playoff chances and deal a crushing setback to a division rival. But a stunning collapse on special teams led to
a blocked field-goal attempt and touchdown return for Tennessee. Minutes later, after another key mistake — this time
a Jacoby Brissett interception — the
Titans were back in the end zone again. From 17-7 to 17-17 to 31-17 in a flash. Brissett wasn’t nearly sharp enough in the second half, but he’s in a tough spot. Playing without
Marlon Mack (hand),
T.Y. Hilton (calf) and
Eric Ebron (ankle), the
Colts simply don’t have the firepower to put teams away. They’ll finish with
three of four away from home.
“A lot of players made a lot of plays, but today was Mitch’s day.”
Those were the words of
Bears coach Matt Nagy, after
Mitchell Trubisky threw for 338 yards and three touchdowns to
beat the Lions on
Thanksgiving. It was easily Trubisky’s best game of the season, and it creates an air of optimism around the much-maligned former first-round pick as the season hits its home stretch. Can Trubisky put himself in position to keep his starting job next season with a strong finish? His play has improved markedly in the past two weeks, but Chicago has been arguably the league’s most disappointing team, and Trubisky’s regression has been a big reason why. The
Bears finish with a murderer’s row of opponents —
Vikings — giving Trubisky both an epic challenge and a golden opportunity to salvage his season.
At a certain point, you are who you are. We’ve waited all season for the
Browns to play to their talent level. A three-game winning streak teased that as a possibility, but then came
another dull performance in a huge spot against the
Steelers. At 5-7, Cleveland’s playoff hopes aren’t completely dashed, but what have we seen from this team that tells us it has something special in store? Maybe that’s a question a reporter could have asked
Jarvis Landry and
Odell Beckham Jr., but those team leaders ducked out of the locker room without talking.
Browns coach Freddie Kitchens did talk after the game,
left to answer questions about
the dumb T-shirt he wore over the weekend that incited an already hyped
Steelers team. The
Browns just seem messy, and you have to wonder if ownership will deem it necessary to find someone new to clean this up.
The Ron Rivera Watch is on. The
Panthers lost their fourth straight on Sunday, blowing a 14-0 lead in
a loss to one of the worst teams in football.
Panthers owner David Tepper let it be known he
won’t stand for mediocrity, but that’s exactly what the
Panthers represent as the season reaches its final month. This all seems like very bad news for Rivera, who might need his
Panthers to win out to land a 10th season on the sideline. Even that might not be enough with a new owner who looks thirsty to make his first real imprint on the team he bought in 2018.
“I’m not worried about my future,” Rivera said after the game. “I’m worried about this football team. We have a game coming up on Sunday.” This is a familiar script in a league that fires a quarter of its coaches each January.
An unthinkable loss for the
Eagles, who had a 28-14 lead over the 2-9
Dolphins but couldn’t close out a win that would have moved them into a tie atop the NFC East. Despite a highly productive day from
Carson Wentz and the struggling
Eagles offense, a winnable game swung on a series of critical failures in the second half. Dropped passes, overthrown balls, penalties, bad sacks, missed field goals — Philadelphia opened up a bag of ineptitude and dumped it all over the field in Miami. Doug Pederson said on Monday that his team
“self-destructed” while labeling the
Eagles a “long shot” to make the playoffs.
That’s not quite accurate: Philly remains just one game behind Dallas in a weak NFC East, but this is a hard team to believe in. Fix one problem, and another one pops up. It’s a losing game of whack-a-mole.
Jaguars are a toy ship sinking to the bottom of one of the swimming pools at their home stadium. Jacksonville’s losing streak reached four after
a 28-11 setback against the
Buccaneers that left the home crowd jeering and head coach Doug Marrone with no choice but to put
Nick Foles on the bench. The Jags’ problems have gone far beyond Foles in the past three weeks, but Sunday was the first time the former
Super Bowl MVP was a main reason the team struggled. Each of the first three Jacksonville possessions ended with a Foles turnover that was eventually turned into a Tampa Bay touchdown.
Gardner Minshew sparked the offense once he entered the game in the third quarter, and the rookie
will remain in the lineup this week against the
Chargers. Minshew Mania will have to run wild all over the NFL in the final four weeks for Marrone to keep his job.
It’s been an ugly season in Atlanta, and the sight of
being ruthlessly stiff-armed to the turf during a
Saints interception return pretty much sums up the current state of
Falcons football. That was just one chapter in a book of brutality on
Thanksgiving night for Ryan, who was sacked nine times in
a 26-18 loss that allowed the hated
Saints to celebrate a division title on enemy turf. Ryan played without
Julio Jones, who was (wisely) held out of action with a bum shoulder. The
Falcons might want to start thinking similarly about their franchise quarterback, who shouldn’t be taking a beating of this nature when the stakes are this low for the 3-9
Falcons. Hey, at least Atlanta recovered back-to-back onside kicks on Thursday. You take the positives where you can find them in a lost season.
Dolphins might be the most fun 3-9 team you’ll ever watch. How could you
not enjoy the way Miami
went after the Eagles, battling back from multiple deficits, calling trick plays, surprise onside kicks — anything to make up for the talent disparity they face every Sunday? It’s a credit to first-year coach Brian Flores — and the quarterback, too. This is a young
Dolphins team playing with the spirit of
Ryan Fitzpatrick, who competes his butt off every Sunday. Fitzpatrick made a series of money throws in wiping out a two-touchdown deficit in the second half, and he avoided the killer turnovers that have haunted him in the past. It helps to have a guy like
DeVante Parker, who has broken out as a star playmaker in his fifth season. Parker is an example of why you don’t give up on talent. The 2015 first-rounder has become a player this organization can build around.
Adam Gase, we were led to believe, had fixed the
Sam Darnold had locked into sync with the coach’s game plan, and Gregg Williams’ defense was balling out. Then Sunday happened, and all the goodwill accrued during a three-game winning streak was wiped away. The
Jets were no match for the
Bengals, bullied by an 0-11 team in
a 22-6 loss in Cincinnati. The
Jets become the first team in NFL history to lose to two teams that started a season 0-7 or worse (they got
whipped by the 0-7 Dolphins last month). This is all a very poor reflection on Gase, who didn’t have his team prepared in a game with playoff ramifications (however faint they might have been). Gase called a poor game, too:
Le’Veon Bell finished with just 10 carries against the NFL’s worst run defense. Sometimes it feels like this organization is chemically addicted to embarrassment.
Burn the tape! Destroy the evidence! Never speak of it again! These are all commands one could imagine coming out of
Cardinals headquarters after Sunday’s embarrassing
34-7 loss to the
Rams, a game that featured almost nothing in the way of positives for the home team. The defense gave up a season-high 549 yards, and the offense didn’t cross 100 yards until the fourth quarter. This was the fifth consecutive loss for Arizona, but all losses are
not created equal, especially for a rebuilding team. In the three defeats that preceded their Week 12 bye, the
Cardinals hung tough and looked ready to hit their stride behind rookie
Kyler Murray. Week 13 represented a step back, and it cost at least one player his job. Starting cornerback
Tramaine Brock was
released on Monday. It won’t get any easier for Murray
this week, when the red-hot
Steelers bring their swarming defense to town.
At some point in the season — let’s clock it around late September — the
Lions lost any ability to close out games. Detroit has lost eight of nine, but the free-fall wouldn’t have been so pronounced had the
Lions handled their business. We saw that again on
Thanksgiving, when a 17-7 second-quarter lead became
a 24-20 loss to the
Bears. At least the
Lions have a feel-good story in
David Blough, whose first career completion was
a 75-yard touchdown to Kenny Golladay. The third-string QB led the
Lions to another touchdown on their second possession and threw for 280 yards against a top defense. We’ll see more of the undrafted rookie, too: The
Jeff Driskel to injured reserve on Saturday with a hamstring injury. With Driskel done and
Matthew Stafford (back) in limbo, you
Bloughhards out there are in for a treat.
Giants fans sent a message to their team on Sunday, leaving thousands of empty seats at MetLife Stadium in Sunday’s
31-13 loss to the
Packers, New York’s eighth straight defeat. These are dark days for a team that stands as one of football’s proudest and most decorated franchises. A lack of difference-makers on defense was plainly apparent against the
Packers, who scored 17 points before sending out their punter for the first time.
Aaron Rodgers threw four touchdown passes without an interception as the
Giants allowed an opponent to score at least 30 points for the seventh time in 12 games. Big changes are on the horizon for Big Blue, which doesn’t have many foundational players beyond quarterback
Daniel Jones and running back
Saquon Barkley. Pat Shurmur hasn’t been a winner in two seasons, but has he ever had a chance?
That dude can come off the roof now. The
Bengals delivered a complete effort on both sides of the ball in
a 22-6 win over the
Jets. Cincinnati will not join the 2008
Lions and 2017
Browns in NFL infamy. Phew.
Andy Dalton returned from an unearned benching and provided a legitimate spark, picking apart a
Jets secondary that had been playing well in recent weeks. Dalton’s final numbers would look even better if not for a pair of end-zone drops in the first half. While Dalton starred for the offense,
Carlos Dunlap led the defense in a dominating day. The veteran defensive end finished with three of the
Bengals‘ four sacks, and Cincinnati held New York to just 271 total yards. The cherry on top of the day? The
Redskins also won, keeping the
Bengals on the inside track for the No. 1 overall pick.
Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @DanHanzus.