By Matt Flynn | Contributing Writer
There are two unbeaten teams left, a few struggling playoff-bound teams, a benched Peyton Manning, and a Seattle team that can’t quite get it right: these are our Week 11 NFL Power Rankings.
#32. San Francisco 49ers (3-6)
- The 49ers, despite beating Atlanta two weeks ago before their bye are the definition of a hopeless franchise. Their once powerful defense is in shambles, and they’ve turned to Blaine Gabbert to be their starting Quarterback. Without a healthy Carlos Hyde to pound the running game, and without a legitimate head coach, this team will continue to be dreadful.
#31. Tennessee Titans (2-7)
- Yes, we like Marcus Mariota too, but after Whisenhunt’s firing, interim head coach Mike Mularkey had said that Antonio Andrews would be the team’s workhorse running back. The offense is a mess, stranding Mariota without many great weapons, and the defense has been fairly average overall, so the Titans tend to lose a ton of close games.
#30. Cleveland Browns (2-8)
- It finally happened. Mike Pettine announced that Johnny Football would be the team’s committed starter for the rest of the season. Now, the offense can attempt to make up for one of the league’s five worst defenses. There’s a strong case to be made here that Cleveland is the worst team in the league, but I see Manziel elevating them almost to respectability over their final six games.
#29. Chicago Bears (3-6)
- Chicago’s defense has shown improvement this season, and the rebuild is beginning to pay off, as the Bears find themselves with a few pieces to build around, including young running back Jeremy Langford. The problem, of course, is that the Quarterback is a veteran, and as long as Jay Cutler lines up under center, Chicago is going nowhere.
#28. Detroit Lions (2-7)
- Last weekend’s Lions team was what we thought they were going to be all season. Stafford scrambling around and extending plays, three half-decent running backs, and a built-up secondary created solely for the reason of stopping Aaron Rodgers. This has been a season to forget for Caldwell, but the Lions are still only one year removed from a playoff berth. The problem: Calvin Johnson isn’t getting any younger.
#27. San Diego Chargers (2-7)
- Speaking of seasons to forget, what happened to the Chargers? Philip Rivers has quietly posted his best season as a pro, so despite a mediocre to bad defense, they should be able to score enough to stay in games. It’s been such an odd season, where sometimes, the Chargers show up and play hard like a playoff team, other times; however, they look like the teams below them on this list. With Keenan Allen out for the year, even the offense will begin to sputter.
#26. Baltimore Ravens (2-7)
- So much for a Super Bowl level of maturity. The Ravens consistently have lost close games this year, and consistently have given games away in the fourth quarter. Injuries and Joe Flacco have played a big part in the seven losses, but my explanation is that this is just a season that got away from them. They’re better than their record indicates.
#25. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-6)
- The Blake Bortles era is underway. Jacksonville has shown signs of life this year, a few close wins, a top 10 fantasy league performance from Bortles, and a young running back in TJ Yeldon, who looks like a hit. These young receivers and the good offense should make the Jaguars a threat in years to come.
#24. St. Louis Rams (4-5)
- This may be an unpopular pick this low, but here’s my case in point, the Texans proved years ago that no matter how good your defense is, you won’t win with Case Keenum as your quarterback. He’s not better than Nick Foles, and despite the loss to the Bears, the Rams have just thrown their season away.
#23. Dallas Cowboys (2-7)
- Tony Romo is back and Dallas has life. That’s all that needs to be said. Horrible division, Romo and Dez charge in the last seven games for an unlikely playoff push. Plus, Dallas’s offensive line and defense are both top notch, surprisingly.
#22. Houston Texans (4-5)
- The good news: the victory over Cincinnati ties them for first in the AFC South. The bad news: they still have Brian Hoyer at quarterback, no running back, and a shaky secondary to back-up the strong front seven powered by J.J. Watt.
#21. New Orleans Saints (4-6)
- Drew Brees’ demise has been greatly exaggerated, the 36-year-old signal-caller has put together a wonderful season, so although he will still grind out games on the way to New Orleans’s eventual 7-9 record, the Saints boast the league’s worst defense, and it’s not even close.
#20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5)
- What do you get when you add an improving defense, a good rookie quarterback, a great second-year receiver, and the return of the Muscle Hamster aka Doug Martin? Answer: a surprisingly dangerous team that could play spoiler at the end of the season. Look out, matey.
#19. Philadelphia Eagles (4-5)
- Despite DeMarco Murray, despite an elite front seven, a Pro Bowl Safety, and great special teams, Chip Kelly has found a way to make this team look mediocre. What’s more important, running a hundred plays and drinking super smoothies, or winning football games, Chip? He’s a moron, and the Eagles suck.
#18. Washington Redskins (4-5)
- You like that!!? I’d be amped too if I were Kirk Cousins, beside me giving games away with turnovers, my team is still only a half game behind the division lead at 4-5. Washington’s okay, but they’re not making the playoffs. They’re exactly what their record says they are, slightly below average.
#17. Miami Dolphins (4-5)
- Like with Washington, everyone on the team begged the Eagles to take last week’s game from them, but they just didn’t want to. They said, “Here Miami, take another win to make it seem like you don’t have an array of problems that need to be fixed.” Either way, I love me some Lamar Miller. That dude can RUN.
#16. Indianapolis Colts (4-5)
- This will be a dangerous playoff team, eventually, but with Matt Hasselbeck under center, they’re merely average until wiz-kid Andrew Luck gets back. All they have to do is hold on and win this awful division to have a shot at a playoff run.
#15. Oakland Raiders (4-5)
- I’m in on Derek Carr, I think he’s incredible, but I’m not in on the Raiders as a whole. Their defense is mediocre and they have no running game, so while a .500 season is a big step-up, they won’t be a threat this year long-term.
#14. Kansas City Chiefs (4-5)
- It was only a matter of time before KC found its footing, and now they’re knocking on the door of being a playoff contender. This I like. The defense is intimidating, and Charcandrick West, Travis Kelce, and Jeremy Maclin are all good play-makers on offense. Mix in an Alex Smith, who doesn’t make too many mistakes, and the Chiefs are looking up.
#13. New York Giants (5-5)
- As Tom Brady goes into seven minutes in heaven with Gostkowski to thank him for Sunday’s bailout, the Giants go into the bye week at .500 with a half-game lead in the division. The Giants pass-rush gets a needed boost with Jason Pierre-Paul putting his finger back in the ringer, but the secondary is still a mess. The Giants are an average to a slightly above-average team, but we know how Eli looks in the playoffs, so watch out.
#12. New York Jets (5-4)
- The thumb injury to Ryan Fitzpatrick makes him even more inept, despite a good O-Line, great receivers (Brandon Marshall was a great addition), and a power back in Chris Ivory, and with Revis’s secondary banged-up around him, things for the Jets went from sturdy to shaky really quickly. Last week’s loss to the Bills proved that.
#11. Denver Broncos (7-2)
- League’s best defense anchored by…Brock Osweiler? Spare me, get Peyton back healthy and they can be a Top 10 team again.
#10. Seattle Seahawks (4-5)
- Before the overrating Seattle hate comes in, let’s think about this, they get up to 4-4 with two straight wins, and then barely lost to the elite Cardinals. That shouldn’t set your ranking back that much…Barring a slip-up by a current leader, the Hawks may miss the playoffs, but they’re still a dangerous team.
#9. Atlanta Falcons (6-3)
- Another tough Top Ten placement considering their last two ugly losses to bad teams. After a bye week, Dan Quinn’s talented offense and much-improved defense should get back to work. This should be a playoff team.
#8. Buffalo Bills (5-4)
- Yes, Rex Ryan drips inconsistency like Belichick does greatness, but this oddly formed team, porous defense and complicated offense and all, tend to win games. There’s something oddly scary about them, and they could beat New England this week.
#7. Green Bay Packers (6-3)
- I have no answers. The O-Line stinks, Eddie Lacy is overweight, and Rodgers looks mortal. Something has to click or the Packers will continue to struggle.
#6. Minnesota Vikings (7-2)
- Remember Adrian Peterson, the running back everyone keeps forgetting about? Oh yeah, he leads the league in rushing and Minnesota boasts an elite pass defense. This is a tough, ground and pound, traditional team.
#5. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4)
- Big Ben came in relief this week and reminded every one of his elite status. That receiving core with Brown, Bryant, and Wheaton is so dangerous, and the O-Line has given Williams room to run. The Steelers will succeed this year.
#4. Cincinnati Bengals (8-1)
- That Primetime loss to the lowly Texans was bad. Is Dalton really over his ‘when it matters most’ struggles? Either way, this should be the team built for Super Bowl contention, and they’re still right there with a terrific record.
#3. Carolina Panthers (9-0)
- The Panthers could go undefeated this year, realistically, and realistically, there’s no way they win the Super Bowl with the lack of true offensive weapons. I like their team too, but it’s not enough. It can’t be, can it?
#2. Arizona Cardinals (7-2)
- These birds are for real after beating Seattle on the road. The defense is elite, the offense is elite, the coach is elite, and the team is elite. This is a legitimate Super Bowl contender, and between them and Carolina (and Green Bay if they can get it together), I like the Cardinals the best in the NFC.
#1. New England Patriots (9-0)
- Brady leads the league in yards, passer rating, touchdown passes, and TD/INT ratio, along with a make-shift offensive line that is hurting his statistics. The defense, thanks to a strong front seven and a fearless man-coverage secondary gets better by the week, and we remind you that the way to beat New England (spread them out and take advantage of their weaker corners) can’t be used because all the other great passing offenses (Green Bay, Indy, Denver) are all struggling. Brady and Co. look for ring number five, and they’re the clear favorites right now.
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