Power Rankings: Patriots hold down No. 1 spot, Browns climb into top 10
So you want parity? You want intrigue? Then Week 11 is for you.
Of the 14 NFL games that will kick off between Thursday night and Monday night, a dozen will involve at least one team either currently in the playoff picture or within a game of getting there. That list includes the 3-6 Falcons visiting the 3-6 Panthers, but still ... it counts.
The stakes continue to rise as we head into mid-November. Here's how the latest Power Rankings shape up:
Perhaps because it occurred against the Raiders (or because Aaron Rodgers matched the feat later Sunday), Peyton Manning's run of five straight possessions with a touchdown pass went almost unnoticed. We all know we're watching greatness when Manning takes the field, but even after all these years it still can be hard to appreciate just how remarkable a passing quarterback he is.
The Eagles led 17-7 Monday night before Mark Sanchez completed his third pass, so Sanchez's first high-pressure situation as the starter will have to wait. On the other hand, if Darren Sproles keeps scoring whenever he feels like it and Connor Barwin keeps tackling everything that moves, Sanchez might not find himself in many tight spots.
The tables have turned the past three games, all late wins. Are the Lions cashing in all their stocked karma in one lump sum?
It's one thing to play a strong game and win, as the Chiefs have done this season against the Patriots and Chargers, among others. It's another thing entirely for a team to win despite looking like it has never practiced nor played the sport of football before. Kansas City pulled the latter off Sunday, shucking aside three rather grotesque quarters to rally past the Bills. And only really good teams can do that.
The Seahawks have steadied themselves to reach a 6-3 record. Four of their next six games are on the road; four of their next six games are against either San Francisco or Arizona. If the defending champs want to protect their crown into January, they will have to earn it.
Baseball has WAR (wins above replacement). Football Outsiders offers up DYAR (defense-adjusted yards above replacement -- more explanation here) as a way of measuring a player's value. Peyton Manning sits No. 1 in the 2014 DYAR rankings; Andrew Luck is No. 2. No matter what method used to break down NFL quarterbacks, Luck has ascended toward the top.
Those Browns missed the playoffs at 10-6, then did not win more than five games over the next six seasons. These Browns might turn out to be the real cover story. They're the team to beat in the AFC North.
The NFC West took some serious injury hits this week. Perhaps none will sting as much as Patrick Willis' season-ending foot injury, one that came right as the 49ers pulled off a win in New Orleans and prepared to get Aldon Smith back. Does two steps forward and one huge step back give the 49ers enough momentum for a playoff push?
The Ravens boast a top-10 offense (No. 8 in points per game at 26.1) and a top-five defense (18.1 PPG allowed). So why doesn't this feel like a top-10 team at the moment? Mainly because Joe Flacco has been hit or miss -- he has three touchdowns and three interceptions over the past three weeks -- and because the secondary is in all-hands-on-deck mode.
Finally, it appears as if RB Ryan Mathews is ready to return -- some needed good news for a Chargers team that was being TKO'd by Miami last we saw it. A Week 11 home game with Oakland should be a further boost. Emphasis on "should," though, because the Raiders have not come any closer to victory this season than they did versus San Diego back in Week 6.
OK, OK, in the Saints' defense, they have gone 2-2 during a tough stretch and could have been 4-0.
They're several spots behind the rest of their division -- including a Ravens team they swept this season -- because, right now, they're simply not very good. The Bengals' sleepwalk against Cleveland should have hammered that point home. It's not just Andy Dalton, either (though he's clearly not helping).
Forgive Bills fans if they feel like the winds of chance push against them more often than not. Their team hasn't been to the playoffs since 1999, and the McKelvin-aided setback against the Chiefs ultimately might cost them a shot at breaking that streak this season.
The Vikings are 4-1 against teams sitting below .500 and 0-4 against teams above .500, so thus far there's been a pretty clear line of demarcation for their success. But with four games still left against teams with losing records, Minnesota could make this interesting down the stretch.
The Ryan Mallett era begins in earnest Sunday, when Houston visits Cleveland. It could be a short journey. With Mallett's contract up at the end of the year, the Texans are far from tied to the former Tom Brady backup. Things weren't great under the guy Mallett's replacing, Ryan Fitzpatrick, but they could have been worse.
Plenty of promising signs from the Rams over the past four weeks -- a 4-4 stretch that included wins over Seattle and San Francisco, plus Sunday's hard-fought loss in Arizona. The issue is that they're drifting into no-man's land now. Has Jeff Fisher done enough to keep this team on its current track? Or is there enough evidence for the franchise to move another direction?
The Falcons have two wins over the Bucs and one over the Saints ... and that's good enough to be within a game of first place in the NFC South. Atlanta's upcoming schedule might put the kibosh on any division-title talk, but even having that discussion now is a pretty glaring indictment of the league's worst division.
The Giants allowed an unimaginable 350 yards rushing to Seattle on Sunday -- more than New York's run game has totaled over this ongoing four-game losing streak (333). Rashad Jennings has missed all of those losses. Having him might not have saved the season, but his absence has crippled the Giants' offensive balance.
Tennessee is just sort of ... there, like Kansas in the Big 12 football landscape or Wake Forest in the ACC. Aside from tracking Zach Mettenberger's progress, the Titans do not even have a storyline that's all that appetizing at the moment. Perhaps 2015 will bring brighter days. This season in Tennessee has been utterly forgettable.
Someone want to poke the Bears with a stick or bring them a glass of water or something? It's hard to tell if they are even still kicking at this point of the season. Sunday's 55-14 loss in Green Bay was one of the worst performance ever produced by a team coming out of a bye week.
That 1-8 might be 1-15 soon, so it's probably not going to get much better for McCown and Co. this season.
The Raiders have now lost 15 straight games dating to last season and are 5-34 overall in their previous 39. Prior to their Week 10 defeat, the Raiders' odds at Vegas' South Point Sportsbook of finishing 0-16 were at 10-1. Might want to get on that before the payout drops.