That was an incredible week of football. I think this sport has a real chance to gain some popularity.
Week 10 led to some deep soul-searching and intense emotional turmoil during the pecking-order process of the Power Rankings, but I’ll continually put myself through a mental ringer if we can get games like this every week.
Wait, he’s not going to keep the Niners at No. 1 after what happened on Monday night, is he? You’re damn right he is.
NOTE: The previous rankings referenced in the lineup below are from the Week 10 Power Rankings.
The worst thing about being on the wrong end of a Monday night classic? You know it will be resurfaced repeatedly on telecasts until the end of time.
The Niners lost their first game of the season in crushing fashion: at home, in prime time, to a division rival, in the last second of overtime. If poor
Chase McLaughlin makes
his final kick, the
49ers are 9-0 and we’re all talking about their bottomless well of resolve. But McLaughlin yacked it, and suddenly the Niners are in a dogfight with the
Seahawks in the NFC West. San Francisco needs to get healthy on the offensive side of the ball: With
George Kittle (knee/ankle) sidelined and
Emmanuel Sanders (ribs) knocked out of the game early,
Jimmy Garoppolo was left with a dearth of trustworthy options … and it showed. The
49ers still feel like the best team in the NFL through 10 weeks, but the
Seahawks showed us the gap is minimal.
Sunday’s matchup against the winless
Bengals seemed unfair on paper, and it was
even crueler in action.
Lamar Jackson robbed the
Bengals of their
agency during another incredible performance in which he finished with a perfect passer rating and delivered his greatest highlight-reel run yet in a 49-13 laugher. The
Ravens are knocking on the door for
the AFC’s top seed, and it all starts with the 22-year-old under center. “You know how many little kids in this country are going to be wearing No. 8 playing quarterback for the next 20 years?”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh
rhetorically asked Jackson on the sideline Sunday, after telling him: “You changed the game, man.” Harbaugh’s right: Jackson
has changed the game. All the talk comparing the second-year star to Michael Vick has been selling Jackson short this entire time. Jackson is better than peak Vick … and he’s just getting started.
We’re coming off a harrowing week for the
Patriots and their fans, who not only had to process their team’s first loss of the season — last Sunday night’s
lopsided defeat to the
Ravens — but also the painful reality that New England no longer holds the top spot in the NFL dot com Power Rankings. Yes, Patriot Way was shaken out of its
Pleasantville-like existence, but let’s all remember that hell hath no fury like Bill Belichick coming off a loss
and a bye. New England is 14-5 in post-bye games during the Belichick Dynasty. The
Eagles draw the tough assignment — they’re
the first of four straight opponents with winning records to face the defending champions. That’s quite a change from the first half, when New England fattened up on some of the worst teams in football.
After it was all over,
Russell Wilson told ESPN he didn’t think he’d “ever been part of a game that crazy.” The
Seahawks knocked off the previously undefeated
27-24 in OT, in a game that had more twists and turns than a daytime soap opera. You could write a book on the overtime period alone, as Wilson threw
a crushing red-zone interception, the Niners
missed a would-be game-winning field goal, then
Jason Myers got his season back on track with
a game-winner in the final seconds of the extra period. Wilson’s steady hand is irreplaceable in pressure cookers like this, but the game ball has to go to
Jadeveon Clowney, who played like a superstar. Clowney lived in San Francisco’s backfield, created turnovers,
scored a touchdown and basically ensured he’ll soon get a contract that makes him one of the highest-paid defenders in football. Nice day at the office for both player and team.
Packers go on to win their first
Super Bowl title in nearly a decade, a beefy segment of the eventual DVD season retrospective will be centered on how Sunday’s game ended at snowy Lambeau Field.
Christian McCaffrey, the NFL’s best running back, was 2 yards from the goal line with the chance to put the
Panthers in position to tie. And the Green Bay defense rose to the occasion to
stuff the Carolina star and
clinch a huge win. The
Packers‘ defense has been a problem for weeks: Since Week 4 and entering Sunday, Mike Pettine’s unit ranked 31st in yards allowed per play, 30th in completions of 20 or more yards allowed and 30th in third-down defense,
per The Athletic. The Pack D nearly collapsed on Sunday, as well: McCaffrey’s final carry was the 18th play of an 88-yard
Panthers drive. But Green Bay didn’t break. It was a dramatic stand to build upon.
A head-scratching loss by the
Saints, who were dominated in all phases by a downtrodden
Falcons team that hadn’t shown a pulse in weeks.
Drew Brees was sacked six times — tied for the most ever in his career — and was pressured 18 times by a relentless Atlanta front seven. How stunning was the defensive surge by the
Falcons? They managed seven sacks
all season before Sunday. The
Saints were well under 300 yards of total offense before they began accumulating first downs in a final garbage-time drive that still produced zero points. “Pick a situation, and there’s a good chance they won that situation,”
Saints coach Sean Payton
said after the game. It was … well … as
weird an outcome as we’ve seen in this 2019 NFL season, and it begs the question: Is this a sign of trouble in New Orleans, or was it just a very bad day at the office?
The big narrative headed into Sunday night’s
huge matchup against the
Cowboys centered on
Kirk Cousins and whether he could rise to the occasion in prime time against a quality opponent, the type of setting that has seemingly unnerved the quarterback in the past. But then the game started, Cousins played with a steady hand, and we were reminded who the true star of Minnesota’s attack really is.
Dalvin Cook delivered another All-Pro performance in Dallas, finishing with 183 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in a 28-24 win. Cook and Cousins didn’t do it alone: The
Vikings‘ defense was in bend-but-don’t-break mode against a high-powered Dallas attack, typified by
Eric Kendricks’ breakup of a pass intended for Ezekiel Elliott in the final minute that ended the
Cowboys‘ final scoring chance. Kendricks has been one of the best cover linebackers in football this season …
Dak Prescott picked the wrong “mismatch.”
Cowboys aimed to show the world on Sunday night they should be viewed as legit
Super Bowl contenders, they didn’t do a very good job of it. Lapses in judgment and failures in execution killed Dallas in
a 28-24 loss to the Vikings, which dropped the
Cowboys into a tie with the
Eagles atop a weak NFC East. Advanced analytics tell us that Jason Garrett’s team is one of the best in football, but there’s always been truth to that ol’ Parcellism:
You are what your record says you are. The
Cowboys are 5-4, a little better than mediocre.
fair-catch call on a
Vikings punt in the final minute is
emblematic of Dallas’ struggles. He told reporters after the game he was instructed to call for a fair catch to save seconds on the clock. Fortune favors the bold … and that ain’t the
For the second consecutive year, and for the third time in the last four seasons, the
Texans have started the season at 6-3. It’s a nice spot to be in, and a big part of Houston’s success can be found in the trenches. The
Texans‘ offensive line, led by key late-summer acquisition
Laremy Tunsil, has done a much better job of protecting
Deshaun Watson. And the unit’s opening up holes for a running game that’s been one of the most productive in football. The Carlos Hyde-
Duke Johnson tandem has piled up nearly 1,000 yards, averaging 4.9 per carry. The absence of
J.J. Watt will likely become more pronounced as the season progresses, but Houston’s front seven did fine work in shutting down
Leonard Fournette and
in Week 9. Houston entered Week 10 having allowed the third-fewest rushing yards per game (84.1) in football.
Patrick Mahomes returned to action and looked close to himself, the most important thing that could come out of
Sunday’s matchup with the Titans. But … what a disastrous finish to a game that the
Chiefs controlled for the majority of four quarters. A quick rundown of the setbacks starting at the 1:36 mark in the fourth quarter: 1) A failure to convert on a third-and-short followed by 2) a botched snap on a field-goal try, which led to 3) an intentional grounding call on the
holder, which set the stage for 4) a defense-wide collapse on the
Titans‘ four play, 61-yard go-ahead touchdown drive, which was followed by 5)
a blocked field-goal attempt to end it.
Titans win, 35-32. If the
Chiefs end up missing out on a bye or find themselves in a dogfight with the
Raiders in the AFC West, remember what happened in Nashville.
One of the biggest surprises of the first half of the season? Scoring points is
hard work for the
Carson Wentz was a buzzy MVP pick entering 2019 (I bow my head in shame), but almost nothing about this offense has been award-worthy so far. Entering Week 10, Philly ranked 14th in points per game, 18th in yards per game, 21st in passing yards per game and 12th in rushing yards per game. The Iggles are the textbook definition of a middling offense, and the numbers back that up. Don’t sleep on how much
season-wrecking abdominal injury hurt this offense — he was a playmaker who could keep defenses honest with his home-run ability. One undeniable bright spot? Second-round running back
Miles Sanders, who has 641 scrimmage yards through nine weeks. Only
Josh Jacobs — the Offensive Rookie of the Year favorite — has more among first-year pros.
Steelers‘ defense continues to resurrect a seemingly lost season. Mike Tomlin’s D held the
Rams to a single field goal on offense and forced four turnovers to claim Pittsburgh’s
fifth win in six games. The
Steelers, left for dead after an 0-3 start, are in the thick of
the AFC wild-card race with seven weeks to play. Pittsburgh is up to 26 takeaways this season, the most turnovers forced by the team in its first nine games of a season since it piled up 28 in that span in 1987. There is less room for excitement on the offensive side of the ball, which managed just 273 yards and 10 points against the
Mason Rudolph, filling in for
Ben Roethlisberger, has been an effective game manager, for the most part, but the
Steelers will need to see a leap in his development for this to be more than a feel-good story in the AFC.
Super Bowl hangover is real. The
Rams were flummoxed by Bill Belichick
on the first Sunday of February and haven’t been remotely the same on offense since. It was all laid bare on a late Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh, where the once-mighty Los Angeles attack managed just one field goal and 306 yards
in a loss that further jeopardized the playoff hopes of the defending NFC champions.
Jared Goff looked helpless trying to make plays in the face of an imposing Pittsburgh front seven, and the
Rams‘ running game remained painfully pedestrian.
Todd Gurley was held under 100 yards for the seventh straight game, and when asked afterward why the former All-Pro didn’t see the ball in the fourth quarter, Sean McVay offered,
“That was just kind of the rotation.”
That was just kind of the rotation. Yep, things have changed a lot for the
Rams, and not for the better.
Do you believe in the
Raiders yet? Jon Gruden’s team, playing in what might have been the final prime-time game ever in Oakland, went ahead on a late touchdown drive, then made an impressive final stand on defense to secure
a huge 26-24 win over the AFC West-rival
Chargers. Once again, a major storyline was the standout play of
Raiders general manager Mike Mayock’s sterling rookie class. Running back
Josh Jacobs (picked 24th overall) put the
Raiders ahead for good with
an 18-yard score, defensive end
Clelin Ferrell (No. 4 overall) had 2.5 sacks and defensive end
Maxx Crosby (picked in the fourth round) capped a big night with a hurry and hit on
Philip Rivers that led to
the game-icing interception by veteran safety Karl Joseph. Oakland’s defense made life miserable for Rivers, who threw three picks and had two more wiped away by penalty. With winnable games ahead against the
Jets (who have a combined record of 2-16), the
Raiders have a legit chance to make the playoffs. Knock on wood if you’re with them.
Yes, he threw a costly red-zone interception, and a center exchange turnover highlighted his ongoing issue with fumbles, but
Kyle Allen played a damn good game on Sunday in Green Bay. In a hostile road environment featuring freezing temperatures and steady snow, Allen kept the
Panthers moving all afternoon.
The eventual 24-16 loss will be remembered for
Christian McCaffrey being stuffed at the goal line as time expired, but don’t forget Allen led Carolina down the field to give CMC that last opportunity. “What he did against that defense, against that front pinning their ears back, knowing we had to throw the ball … was pretty incredible,”
said Greg Olsen. “I thought what he did tonight overall and that fourth quarter was as impressive a quarterback display as I’ve ever seen.” A high compliment from a guy who went to a
Super Bowl with league MVP
Cam Newton a few years back.
Bills looked like a middle-of-the-pack team on Sunday
against the Browns, hence their placement on the Power Rankings. We saw a breakdown in three phases in Cleveland: On offense,
Josh Allen sailed a couple deep balls past open receivers (sound familiar?), and Buffalo was held under 20 total points for the fifth time this season. On defense, the
Browns were able to march 82 yards on 10 plays for the go-ahead score late in the fourth quarter. On special teams, kicker
Stephen Hauschka missed two-field goal attempts, including
the 53-yarder that sealed Buffalo’s fate in the final minute. At 6-3, there’s no need to panic. The schedule stays light, with winnable games
against the Dolphins
and Broncos over the next two weeks. Take care of business there, and a playoff ticket is close to punched. But can this team be trusted right now?
Colts played without their starting quarterback and top wide receiver on Sunday, and it showed
against the Dolphins. With
Jacoby Brissett sidelined by the knee injury suffered in Week 9 against the
Brian Hoyer reverted to the worst version of himself. The veteran completed less than half of his passes and threw three interceptions in his 10th straight loss as a starter. You could do worse than Hoyer as your backup, but there’s also a reason he was available after Andrew Luck suddenly retired in late August. Brissett needs to be on the field, especially as the schedule tightens up with
games against AFC South rivals. The big question around the team is whether
Adam Vinatieri will be kicking in any of those games. The veteran missed yet another extra point, this one costly in a game decided by four points. How long can Frank Reich stick with his guy?
Philip Rivers is currently on the dark web searching for mind-eraser technology to wipe away
a lost Thursday night in Oakland. The
Chargers quarterback threw three interceptions and had two more picks nullified by penalty in a 26-24 loss to the
Raiders that put
Los Angeles’ playoff hopes in serious doubt. Rivers was under constant duress due to a surprisingly meddlesome Oakland front seven, which had its way with an L.A. offensive line missing both starting tackles. The low point for the
Chargers came on a final possession that went like this: incompletion, incompletion, incompletion, penalty (first down), incompletion, incompletion, incompletion, interception. Like I said,
Philip Rivers is scouring the digital underground in search of mind-eraser hardware. Next up for the
Chargers? A showdown against
Patrick Mahomes and the
in Mexico City. It’s a virtual must-win for the Bolts.
What an outrageous, dramatic and potentially season-saving win by the
on Sunday against the
Chiefs. In news that would have stunned
Titans fans into silence a few weeks back, it was the
offense that rescued the home team in Nashville. Tennessee’s defense, which has been asked to carry the show for years, gave up 530 yards and 32 points to a Kansas City attack that seemed to be on the field for the entire afternoon. But the Ryan Tannehill-led
Titans offense made the most of its opportunities. That was never more apparent than on the four-play, 61-yard touchdown drive that culminated with
Adam Humphries’ 23-yard touchdown catch with 23 seconds to play. The
Titans needed just 58 seconds to reach the end zone on a drive that began in their territory with no timeouts. This doesn’t happen with
Marcus Mariota behind center.
made the anticipated switch to
Nick Foles in the bye week, and you have to admire the coach’s vision.
Jaguars fans have rallied around rookie QB
Gardner Minshew, both as a player and a shaggy underdog folk hero, so sending the sixth-round pick to the bench took some onions, to borrow a phrase from famed basketball announcer Bill Raftery. Now we’ll see if Marrone’s decision pays off for a Jags team that needs a winning streak. In a way, it’s a no-lose situation for the Duval faithful. If Foles and the
Jaguars surge, it will make for an exciting final seven weeks of the regular season in Jacksonville. If Foles struggles, the Jags still have a promising young backup waiting in the wings. We’re no longer in Bortles-or-bust or Blaine-or-pain territory, the fan equivalent of being trapped on a burning boat with a pack of hungry crocodiles circling below.
Things got more interesting than they should have in the final minutes, but
the Bears held on against a
Lions team missing
Matthew Stafford. The
Bears offense managed just 20 yards total in their first four possessions, a funk that summoned memories of
Week 9, when Chicago managed just 9 total net yards in the first half against the
Eagles. The turning point Sunday came on Chicago’s final possession of the first half: A 10-play, 80-yard march that ended when
Mitchell Trubisky found Ben Braunecker in the end zone for the go-ahead score. Trubisky threw two more touchdown passes in the third quarter, taking control of the game and releasing the pressure valve at Soldier Field. Though the
Bears‘ attack remains The Problem in Chicago, you can see a few beams of sunshine breaking through the clouds in the last two weeks. Can they build on it?
Well, here we are again. The
Broncos are out of contention in the AFC West … and they still need a quarterback.
Paxton Lynch gave way to
Trevor Siemian, who gave way to
Case Keenum, who gave way to
Joe Flacco, who will ultimately give way to … ???
Brandon Allen, who looked pretty good
against the Browns last week?
Drew Lock, the second-round pick who currently resides in parts unknown (but who is
returning to practice)? A new college hotshot to be named later? If John Elway is again permitted to direct this search (a big
if), don’t be surprised to see the
Broncos dip into the free-agent market for the third straight year. An unofficial list of veteran QBs who will be — or could be — changing teams this offseason:
Jameis Winston. Oh, hell,
and Tom Brady, too. Hey, Elway reeled in Peyton Manning in 2012, and that worked out pretty well.
It’s hard to say what exactly can be taken out
the Browns’ win over the Bills. Any victory is a great victory, especially when it ends a four-game losing streak, but key deficiencies remain for Cleveland. The offense is inconsistent with
Baker Mayfield at the controls, and the unit’s work in the red zone remains dreadful — especially with the amount of talent on the field. The season would have been all but over if the fumble return for a touchdown by
Jerry Hughes late in the fourth quarter hadn’t been overturned by review. But it was, and a Nick Chubb-led offense made the most of its second chance, driving for the go-ahead score. Following
a second missed field-goal try by Stephen Hauschka, the
Browns were celebrating. Cleveland remains
on the outside looking in at 3-6, but hey, the rest of the AFC wild-card field isn’t exactly overwhelming — Buffalo included. A win
against the Steelers on
Thursday Night Football, and the
Browns have a shot.
Here’s a hot take: The
Lions really need
Matthew Stafford. The quarterback, whose iron-man starting streak
ended on Sunday due to a back injury, was sorely missed in a
loss to the Bears that put Detroit’s playoff hopes
on life support.
Jeff Driskel stepped in for Stafford and had a few moments — his best being
a pretty, 47-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Golladay that gave the
Lions a spark in the fourth quarter — but this simply isn’t a balanced enough team to survive the absence of its best player. The typically overmatched
Lions defense started off well, holding the
Bears to just 20 yards on four fruitless drives to start the game. But Mitch Trubisky threw touchdown passes in the next three
Bears possessions, putting Detroit in a 20-6 hole that was simply too deep with Stafford on the sideline. Now we wait to see how long the quarterback has to stay there.
It’s an NFL cliche when a struggling team hypes up an upcoming matchup against a rival as “our Super Bowl” … but in the case of
Sunday’s 26-9 win over the
Saints at the Superdome, it truly felt like that. The
Falcons played with passion and precision for four quarters; someone with no information on these rivals would be stunned to learn which team entered this game with a 1-7 record and which team entered it at 7-1. Good for Atlanta’s Dan Quinn, whose beaming smile on the sideline in the game’s waning minutes told the story of a coach who really needed that. And let’s give some love to Quinn’s defense, which was atrocious in the season’s first half but legitimately dominant against a
Saints offense that’s as deep as any attack in football. The
Saints‘ nine points were the fewest in a home game since Sean Payton and
Drew Brees came to town. Hand the
Falcons their invisible Lombardi Trophy.
That’s three straight losses for the
Cardinals following their three-game winning streak. On Sunday, they competed for 60 minutes on the road
against the Bucs, but they were unable to find a way (or get a pass-interference call on
Kyler Murray‘s final heave as time expired). Speaking of Murray, the rookie quarterback threw his first interception in six weeks. He went 211 passes between picks, an NFL rookie record. Murray joins
Deshaun Watson, Daunte Culpepper and
Cam Newton as the only players since 1950 with 2,500 passing yards and 250 rushing yards in their first 10 career starts. We got some intrigue on Monday when
Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury revealed that he kept
David Johnson on the bench in the final quarter so they could
keep Kenyan Drake “rolling.” Johnson, who led the NFL in touches (373) and scrimmage yards (2,118) in 2016, hasn’t been the same player this year as he’s battled multiple injuries. Could his time in Arizona be close to an end?
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That’s two consecutive wins for the
Dolphins, who followed last week’s
convincing victory over the
a road win over a banged-up
Ryan Fitzpatrick continues a recent trend of playing within himself (not historically his bailiwick), and the Miami defense continues to improve. The
Dolphins have forced five takeaways in their last three games after managing just two heading into Week 8. It’s all a very good look for first-year coach Brian Flores, who weathered the storm of his team’s historically inept first six games and now has Miami playing the role of frisky spoiler in the AFC. That might not follow the plan management had in mind over the summer, but that’s why these supposed “tank” setups rarely work. The coaches and players on the field want to succeed. “We’re going out to win every game. Period,”
Flores said on Sunday night. Amen to that.
Jamal Adams said the
Jets should view him as an untouchable superstar while
expressing his displeasure with his name coming up ahead of last month’s trade deadline — and on Sunday, he played like one. The third-year safety was a man possessed
against the Giants, stuffing the box score with nine tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, a touchdown and a fourth-down stop. His
“gimme six” takeaway from
Daniel Jones steadied a
Jets team that seemed ready to lose control of another game. The
Jets should do everything in their power to repair their relationship with Adams … making him the highest-paid safety in the NFL would be a good start.
Sam Darnold — Gang Green’s
other most important commodity — also delivered a strong game, leading the
Jets on three touchdown drives and avoiding a turnover for just the second time this season. Adam Gase needs several more games like this to regain his “quarterback whisperer” reputation and earn a second year on the sideline in Gotham.
The losing streak has reached six after
an ugly defeat to the crosstown-rival
Jets. These losses never go over well internally at
Saquon Barkley was held to
1 rushing yard on 13 carries, the offensive line surrendered six sacks and the defense couldn’t shut down a previously punchless
Jets offense that entered Sunday averaging 12.0 points per game. The
Giants would love to provide
Daniel Jones with stability as the promising rookie quarterback continues his development, but Pat Shurmur is going to have a hard time surviving this season unless the
Giants make a major turnaround. Jones was the game’s biggest bright spot, throwing for 308 yards and four touchdowns without an interception. It’s not the first time the
Giants have squandered a high-level Jones performance, and it speaks to how much work needs to be done to return this meandering franchise to prominence.
Redskins announced Monday that rookie
Dwayne Haskins will
start for the remainder of the season. We’ll see if the quarterback gets the opportunity to make a difference. Haskins attempted just 22 passes in
Week 9’s loss to the
Bills, while Washington has morphed into one of the most run-heavy teams in football since Bill Callahan took over as interim coach. That schematic shift is likely connected to the coaching staff’s attempt to protect a rookie passer who might not be ready for prime time, but c’mon now, if you’re going to play the kid … then, you know,
let the kid play. The run-heavy
Redskins attack isn’t working a lick, anyway: Washington has gone three straight games with 10 points scored or less, the team’s worst stretch of offensive ineptitude since the John F. Kennedy administration. Ah, yes, those scrappy
1-12-1 Redskins of 1961.
You can say it’s unfair to drop the
Bengals to the bottom of the Power Rankings coming off
a nearly impossible assignment against
Lamar Jackson and the surging
Ravens, but eventually,
in our league (to borrow a grating Aikman-ism), you have to win a football game.
Ryan Finley began his audition to become the Quarterback Of The Future in Cincinnati, a mostly rocky debut that included two turnovers returned for touchdowns. He’ll get the rest of this season to prove himself as a prospect worth developing, but you imagine the
Bengals will struggle to pass on the opportunity to select one of the top quarterbacks in the draft if they end up with the No. 1 pick or something close to it. On Sunday, they got a front-row seat for the Lamar Jackson Show — a reminder of how an elite young talent under center can change everything.
Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @DanHanzus.
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