NFL Week 11 Power Rankings: A new king of the hill

NFL Week 11 Power Rankings: A new king of the hill

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Some weeks in the NFL, a series of things surprise you. In Week 10, three 1-7 teams posted victories, giving hope to fans of some much-maligned squads.

The Jets beat the Giants, 34-27, as safety Jamal Adams became the sixth player since 2000 to record two quarterback sacks, two forced fumbles and a touchdown in the same game. The Dolphins won their second straight game after an 0-7 start, besting the depleted Colts and proving that, at least to head coach Brian Flores and his players, any talk of tanking was pure bunk.

Then, the Falcons improbably whupped up on the Saints, sacking Drew Brees six times and holding New Orleans under 10 points in New Orleans for the first time since 1973.

None of these teams have realistic playoff hopes this season, but the ability to get your game together for even a short part of the season can provide some compelling narratives.

Here’s how all 32 teams stand in out Touchdown Wire’s Week 11 power rankings:

32. Cincinnati Bengals

(0-9. Last week: 32)

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(David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports)

The news during the week of Cincinnati’s bye was the team’s decision to bench longtime quarterback Andy Dalton in favor of rookie Ryan Finley. That move backfired, as the fourth-rounder from North Carolina State looked overwhelmed against Baltimore’s defense, completing 16 of 30 passes for 167 yards, one touchdown pass to a teammate, and one touchdown to Ravens cornerback Marcus Peters. But the real story of this game was the same as it’s been all season for the Bengals — their complete inability to deal with any opposing offense. Lamar Jackson had a career day running around and through a defense that had no clue how to stop him and throwing against a helpless secondary. Dalton was never great for the Bengals this season, but he’s not the primary reason they’re the lone winless team in the NFL. Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo’s first year at this position could well be his last unless something — anything — improves.

31. Washington Redskins

(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

(1-8. Week 10 Bye. Last week: 30)

The Redskins have done a lot of dumb things since Dan Snyder became the team’s owner in 1999, but the team’s handling of left tackle Trent Williams might be the dumbest of all. Following the seven-time Pro Bowler’s issues with the team’s diagnosis of a tumor on his head, which team physicians insisted wasn’t a big deal, Williams requested a trade. That request was denied, and the Redskins have now placed Williams on the reserve/non-football injury list, which means the team doesn’t have to pay the remainder of his 2019 salary. Williams likely will (and should) file a grievance with the league, and the Redskins have looked awful all the way through this mess. A 1-8 season is one thing, but the losses this franchise takes off the field remain the most embarrassing.

30. New York Giants

(Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports)

(2-8. Last week: 25)

In several ways, Giants rookie quarterback Daniel Jones impressed in his team’s 34-27 loss to the Jets on Sunday. With his second game with four touchdown passes, Jones inched closer to Deshaun Watson and Fran Tarkenton as the only quarterbacks with three such games as rookies (per NFL Research). Jones also led the Giants in rushing for the second straight game, with 20 yards on three carries. But Jones’ three fumbles — one of which was returned 25 yards for a touchdown by Jets safety Jamal Adams — put him in the league lead at 13. Not good. Also not good is the production from franchise running back Saquon Barkley over the past two games — 29 yards on 27 carries, including just one yard on 13 carries on Sunday. Barkley had 100-yard games against the Cowboys in Week 1 and the Bills in Week 2, but ever since then, it’s been diminishing returns. Not that the Giants are anywhere close to postseason relevance, but they’d better figure out their running game problems quickly.

29. New York Jets

(Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports)

(2-7. Last week: 31)

One week after what was absolutely Adam Gase’s worst game as a head coach (and that’s saying something) in a loss to the Dolphins, Gang Green got a little bit of much-needed traction in a win over the Giants. Not that the win was pretty — Gregg Williams’ defense allowed four touchdown passes to rookie quarterback Daniel Jones, and Jets quarterback Sam Darnold completed just 19 of 30 passes for 230 yards and a touchdown — but Darnold and Le’Veon Bell ran for touchdowns, and safety Jamal Adams returned a Jones fumble for a 25-yard touchdown. Winning ugly is an irrelevant concern for a team with this much of a deficit in talent and coaching acumen; the mere ability to come out ahead on any scoreboard should be seen as a plus — except for the extent to which it allows Gase to keep his job.

28. Atlanta Falcons

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

(2-7. Last week: 29)

Where did this come from? The Falcons’ defense has been a sieve throughout this season, especially in coverage, and the pass rush has been far from impressive. But in their 26-9 win over the Saints on Sunday, Dan Quinn’s defense put it all together. Atlanta had six sacks of Drew Brees, adding 11 quarterback hits, and limited the future Hall of Famer to 32 completions in 45 attempts for 287 yards and no touchdowns. It was a remarkable upset of a division rival that was favored by 13½ points pregame, and while it’s likely too late to salvage anything this season, a few more performances like this might save Quinn’s job.

27. Cleveland Browns

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

(3-6. Last week: 28)

How did Cleveland beat the Bills? It’s kind of a mystery. At one point in the first quarter of this game, the Browns had eight straight plays from the Buffalo 1-yard line and failed to score. Credit Freddie Kitchens for some originality there, we guess. Baker Mayfield did connect for touchdown passes to Jarvis Landry and Rashard Higgins, with Higgins’ 7-yarder as the game-winner, and Cleveland premiered a two-halfback set with Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb that could be highly effective as the season goes along — the Browns went with the two-back set on 28 of their offensive snaps. Given Chubb’s effectiveness as a runner to all gaps (he gained 116 yards on 20 carries against Buffalo’s defense) and Hunt’s versatility, the addition of more and better personnel packages should help an offense that had become stale and ineffective through most of the season — although it still has obvious issues in the red zone.

26. Miami Dolphins

(Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images)

(2-7. Last week: 27)

Two straight weeks and two straight wins for the team that was allegedly tanking, though nobody thought to convince head coach Brian Flores. The Dolphins are playing undermanned but tough under current management, and their 16-12 win over the Colts is a good example of how one such team can take advantage of another’s dire straits. The Colts were without starting quarterback Jacoby Brissett and top receiver T.Y. Hilton, and Miami’s defense picked off backup Brian Hoyer three times. Draft position is not a concern for Flores — he’s said all along that he and his charges are out to win every game, and that’s just as true now when it’s actually happening as it was when such things seemed impossible. This win took the Dolphins from a 66% to a 12% chance to land the first overall pick, per ESPN, but the Dolphins are defining their future in a different way — by succeeding improbably in the present.

25. Denver Broncos

(Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

(3-6. Week 10 Bye. Last week: 26)

With a quarterback situation that has moved from Joe Flacco to Brandon Allen, you’d expect Denver’s offense to be a warmed-over disaster, though Allen looked pretty good in his first start against the Browns in Week 9. A reason to be optimistic for beleaguered Broncos fans who probably struggle to remember what a functional passing game looks like? That’s on the defense, which comes as no surprise, as first-year head coach Vic Fangio is one of the best defensive shot-callers of his era. The Broncos came into their bye week ranked third overall, behind only the Patriots and 49ers, in Football Outsiders’ opponent-adjusted defensive metrics, and several Broncos defenders are enjoying career seasons. Perhaps no Denver defender has been more effective than safety Justin Simmons, who’s been in lockdown mode against the pass all season and provides outstanding run support when needed. Someone in Denver’s front office needs to wrest the quarterback decisions away from John Elway sooner rather than later, but at least the Broncos are cooking on one side of the ball.

24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

(Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

(3-6. Last week: 24)

“I’m just really elated that we finished. That was a really, really ugly win.”

Well, Jameis Winston was right about that. Tampa Bay’s 30-27 win over the Cardinals had a lot of the Bucs’ primary characteristics throughout the season. Winston threw two interceptions, pushing his league-leading total to 14 (the same number of picks he threw in all of last season), and Todd Bowles’ secondary continued to frustrate, as Kyler Murray completed 27 passes in 44 attempts for 324 yards, with three touchdowns and one pick. But that interception — thrown to cornerback Jamel Dean with 3:47 left in the game — gave Dean a measure of recompense after allowing three touchdowns against the Seahawks the week before. It’s been a rough go for Bruce Arians’ team, which had its first home game since Sept. 22 and went 1-4 in that five-game stretch, but this at least gives the Bucs a bit of a breather before they face a Saints team next week looking to bounce back following its shocking upset loss to the Falcons.

23. Detroit Lions

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

(3-5-1. Last week: 20)

It’s going to be easy to blame Matthew Stafford’s back injury for Detroit’s 20-13 loss to the Bears, as Stafford had to sit while backup Jeff Driskel took the field. But Driskel wasn’t horrible; he completed 27 passes in 46 attempts for 269 yards, with one touchdown and one interception against one of the NFL’s most formidable defenses. When assigning blame for this loss, and for the collapse that has seen the Lions lose five of their past six games, one must look squarely at a defense that allowed four touchdowns to Oakland rookies in Week 9 and followed that up by making things all too easy for Mitchell Trubisky on his three touchdown passes. This looked like one of the NFL’s better pass defenses at times early in the season, but that narrative has completely fallen apart. Per Pro Football Focus, Detroit’s secondary has allowed 15 touchdowns to just three interceptions this season. No team is going to win that way consistently, no matter who their quarterback is.

22. Los Angeles Chargers

(Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports)

(4-6. Last week: 22)

Last Thursday night, Oakland rookie Josh Jacobs’ 18-yard touchdown run with 1:02 left in the game gave the Raiders a 26-24 lead over the Chargers. The Raiders then kicked off to the Chargers, who gave the ball to Philip Rivers in the hope that he could engineer a crucial win. What resulted was probably the worst drive of Rivers’ career. The veteran shot-putted the ball all over the field, and only one of his seven passes didn’t fall incomplete — his last pass of the night, which was caught by Oakland safety Karl Joseph.

Every incomplete pass has its own story, and it’s not always the quarterback’s fault. But this was mostly on Rivers, and the pass to Joseph was one of three interceptions on the night. Rivers is an immobile quarterback behind a patchwork offensive line, and that’s a lot of the problem. But as idiosyncratic as his throwing motion always has been, something appears wrong with the way he’s throwing the ball these days. In any event, if Rivers can’t turn that around, the Chargers are going nowhere but home once the playoffs come around.

21. Chicago Bears

(Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports)

(4-5. Last week: 23)

Hey, remember when Mitchell Trubisky threw five touchdown passes in one half of football against the Buccaneers on Sept. 30, 2018? It’s more a “Believe it or Not” story at this point, given the extent to which Trubisky has played poorly since that outlier performance. But in Chicago’s 20-13 win over the Lions on Sunday, Trubisky at least tried to resemble the guy who the Bears traded up to take with the second pick in the 2017 draft. Not that his stats were mind-blowing — 16 completions in 23 attempts for 173 yards — but he stayed within himself, let the route combinations come to him, and threw one outstanding deep touchdown to tight end Ben Braunecker …

… and another one to wide receiver Taylor Gabriel.

He also threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to running back Tarik Cohen. There’s no real way of knowing whether Trubisky can build on this game — we’ve been fooled before. But for at least one game, there were enough positive elements to think that maybe, just maybe, there’s something there after all.

20. Jacksonville Jaguars

(Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports)

(4-5. Week 10 Bye. Last week: 19)

The decision to go back to Nick Foles instead of Gardner Minshew was made easier by Minshew’s performance against the Texans in Week 9, when the sixth-round rookie completed just 27 of 47 passes, and gave up two picks with no touchdowns. But unless Foles performs at a level commensurate with the four-year, $88 million contract Jacksonville gave him this past offseason, it might be just as easy to give the ball back to Minshew. Pressed into service after Foles broke his collarbone in Week 1, Minshew transformed himself almost overnight into someone who could handle an NFL offense, read to all areas of the field, and uncork some spectacular deep throws. At the very least, Minshew gives the Jaguars the NFL’s best backup quarterback situation outside of New Orleans, and over time, there could be a lot more to his story.

19. Arizona Cardinals

(Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

(3-6-1. Last week: 17)

The good news for the Cardinals on Sunday was that rookie quarterback Kyler Murray continued to find his targets for good, hitting Christian Kirk for three touchdowns and throwing for 324 yards overall. The bad news? Well, Murray’s record-setting streak of 211 passes without an interception ended with a late pick by Buccaneers safety Jamel Dean in a 30-27 loss at Tampa Bay. Kliff Kingsbury benched David Johnson in favor of Kenyan Drake, which makes Johnson’s future with the Cardinals an interesting topic of conversation. And a defense that has struggled through most of the season gave Jameis Winston far too many opportunities for positive plays, though with two picks, Winston was just as willing to give the ball away. Such inconsistencies are common among young teams looking to rebuild, and the Cardinals do have a lot of explosive potential among the short-term frustrations.

18. Los Angeles Rams

(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

(5-4. Last week: 16)

After the Rams went 13-3 and reached the Super Bowl last season, head coach Sean McVay was the toast of the league. What a difference a year can make, and not in a good way. In a 17-12 loss to the Steelers on Sunday, McVay’s offense converted just one of its 14 third-down attempts. The Rams’ drives: Punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, fumble, punt, missed field goal, interception, interception, field goal, punt, punt, downs, interception. At one point, McVay pulled Jared Goff from the game, installed backup quarterback Blake Bortles, and then tried a fourth-down pass from punter Johnny Hekker, which was intercepted by safety Terrell Edmunds. Goff completed 22 of 41 passes for 243 yards, no touchdowns, and two picks of his own. Goff has a completion rate below 60% in each of his last five games, nobody seems to know why Todd Gurley isn’t getting the ball, and Cooper Kupp didn’t catch a single pass on a season-low four targets. The league may have figured out McVay and Goff, but McVay and Goff are helping their opponents with some truly ugly football.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers

(Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

(5-4. Last week: 18)

In Sunday’s 17-12 win over the Rams that put Pittsburgh over the .500 mark for the first time this season, the Steelers overcame a pedestrian offense with an opportunistic and aggressive defensive performance for a franchise long known for such things. The trade for defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, who has become the NFL’s best deep safety, was a huge part of this. But it was also due to a fine defensive line, led by Cameron Heyward and T.J. Watt, and that unit was all over Jared Goff on Sunday. It’s estimated that running back James Conner will return to action in Thursday’s game against the Browns, which will give Mike Tomlin and his staff some level of assurance that offensive consistency without Ben Roethlisberger is possible.

16. Tennessee Titans

(Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)

(5-5. Last week: 21)

Don’t look now, but the Titans, once left at death’s door for the 2019 season, are starting to look a little frisky. They certainly were in their 35-32 win over the Chiefs, which included a four-play, 61-yard winning drive that took less than a minute off the clock and continued to redefine Ryan Tannehill’s legacy as an NFL quarterback. Tannehill started the drive with a 18-yard scramble, nearly hit A.J. Brown on a deep throw down the left side, and then hit on a tight-window deep throw to tight end Anthony Firkser and the game-winner to receiver Adam Humphries.

Running back Derrick Henry was the real star of the day with his 188 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries, but this is a team that has not had a functional quarterback since Marcus Mariota became a shell of his former self over the past couple seasons. Perhaps Mariota can experience a Tannehill-like rebirth with another team in 2020. Right now, it’s Tannehill’s story that’s one of the most surprising of this season.

15. Philadelphia Eagles

(Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

(5-4. Week 10 Bye. Last week: 14)

The Eagles got bad news during their bye week, as wide receiver DeSean Jackson was placed on injured reserve with a core muscle injury. Jackson hadn’t really been a factor all season outside of an eight-catch, 154-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Redskins in Week 1, and his definite absence further complicates things for an offense in desperate need of speed and separation at any of its receiver positions. Signing wideout Jordan Matthews for his third stint with the team isn’t much more than spackle, and the pressure will be on Philly’s defense more than ever in the second half of the season if Doug Pederson’s team wants any part of the postseason. Given the rabid inconsistencies in that defense through the first half of the season (especially in coverage), that’s a rather large request.

14. Indianapolis Colts

(Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports)

(5-4. Last week: 13)

Though Jacoby Brissett had thrown 14 touchdowns and just three interceptions before suffering a sprained MCL in Week 9 against the Steelers, there were Colts fans who considered Brissett expendable. Those people are probably rethinking that position after their team’s 16-12 loss to the Dolphins, in which backup quarterback Brian Hoyer completed 18 of 39 passes for 204 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. This after Hoyer threw a 96-yard pick-six to Minkah Fitzpatrick to help lose the Steelers game. Hoyer was without star receiver T.Y. Hilton against the Dolphins, Frank Reich’s offense couldn’t get much going on the ground, and Adam Vinatieri continued a troubling 2019 season that suggest the greatest kicker in NFL history might need to hang ’em up. But the real story for the Colts is how they look without Brissett under center. It’s time to acknowledge that, perhaps especially in his absence.

13. Dallas Cowboys

(Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

(5-4. Last week: 12)

Throughout Dallas’ game against the Vikings on Sunday night, Dak Prescott was clearly on a roll, completing 28 of 46 passes for 397 yards, three touchdowns, one interception and several outstanding tight-window throws from both in and outside the pocket. So it was rather strange that with the Cowboys down 28-24 with 1:33 left in the game and the Vikings loading up to stop the run, the Dallas coaching staff would call two straight running plays. Ezekiel Elliott lost a total of three yards on those plays, Prescott couldn’t hit Elliott on fourth down, and the game was effectively over, although Prescott had another brief chance before time ran out in a last drive that ended with a Hail Mary interception. Oft-criticized head coach Jason Garrett insisted that his team would continue to maintain its identity as a running team, but when your franchise back has just 50 yards on 18 carries coming into that sequence, maybe it’s time to switch your identity. Once again, we are left with questions about Garrett’s role in play-calling versus the role of offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, who’s been quite effective when left alone to do his thing.

12. Oakland Raiders

(Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

(5-4. Last week: 15)

Last week, I pointed out that the Raiders, in their Week 9 win over the Lions, were the first team since the 2015 Seahawks to have rookies score four touchdowns in a victory. Anytime you can put your draft class against the cream of the mid-decade Seahawks, your staff is doing something right. Against the Chargers last Thursday, it was time for Oakland’s rookie pass-rushers to show up. This they did, as Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby combined for three sacks and 10 total pressures. Rookie running back Josh Jacobs also scored the game-deciding touchdown in a 26-24 win that put the Raiders over .500 — that was the Raiders’ league-leading 13th touchdown by a rookie in 2019. Oakland’s personnel staff, led by general manager Mike Mayock, has put together the NFL’s most impressive rookie class this season. There’s simply no way Jon Gruden’s team would be in playoff contention had Mayock and his people not done such an incredible job up and down their draft board.

11. Buffalo Bills

(AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

(6-3. Last week: 9)

One of the reasons — perhaps the primary reason — the Bills selected Josh Allen with the seventh pick in the 2018 draft, despite serious concerns about his accuracy to all levels of the field, was Allen’s howitzer of an arm. Buffalo’s coaching staff surely thought it would be relatively easy to correct this. Not so, and it really showed in the Bills’ 19-16 loss to the Browns, in which Baker Mayfield made a few more plays than Allen did. Buffalo’s defense allowed a crushing 82-yard drive late in the fourth quarter, but it was Allen’s inability to respond that should really concern the team. Per Pro Football Focus, Allen was 0-for-5 on passes of 20 or more air yards in this game, and for the season, he’s completed just 12 of 43 such passes for 350 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions and a passer rating of 39.7. Only Carolina’s Kyle Allen has a worse passer rating on deep balls among quarterbacks who have taken at least 50% of their team’s snaps this season, and Kyle Allen was nobody’s idea of a franchise quarterback when the season began.

10. Carolina Panthers

(Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)

(5-4. Last week: 7)

Sometimes, there’s just the one thing you need to fix. The Panthers have a decent bridge quarterback in Kyle Allen, one of the best yards-from-scrimmage threats in the league in Christian McCaffrey, and a pass defense that is very tough to throw against. But their run defense? Yikes. Carolina is tied with Cincinnati in allowing a league-worst 5.2 yards per carry, and it’s never good to be tied with the NFL’s worst overall defense. The Packers exploited this obvious weakness in a 24-16 win, as Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams ran wild against a front seven that should be better than this, based purely on personnel. The Panthers will try to fix this issue against the Falcons and their 3.8 yards-per-carry average next week. Long term, this is the kind of thing that could upend everything else as the Panthers try to contend for the postseason.

9. Kansas City Chiefs

(Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)

(6-4. Last week: 8)

Patrick Mahomes welcomed the NFL back to his own experience after missing two weeks due to a knee injury with 36 completions in 50 attempts for 446 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Mahomes did all he could do; the problem was, Kansas City’s defense didn’t do much to help. As a result, Mahomes became the 13th quarterback since 1950 to have his team lose in a game in which he threw for over 400 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, and suffered two sacks or fewer. Steve Spagnuolo’s defense looked helpless against Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill in the Chiefs’ 35-32 loss at Tennessee, and with the Raiders moving up the AFC West ladder, Kansas City looks vulnerable in ways it rarely did last season.

8. Houston Texans

(Photo by Jack Thomas/Getty Images)

(6-3. Week 10 Bye. Last week: 5)

If you like great young quarterbacks, you’ll want to tune into the Week 11 matchup between the Texans and Ravens, where you’ll see Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson doing their level best to make the opposing defenses look silly. With Watson out on a bye week last week, perhaps we’ve forgotten how impressive he’s been this season, and how he should absolutely be part of any MVP discussion along with Jackson and Russell Wilson. The challenge for Watson in this game will not be to match what Jackson does blow by blow; it will be to continue doing what he does as a passer against a Baltimore secondary that has improved dramatically since the acquisition of cornerback Marcus Peters. If Watson can lead his team to victory through that particular gauntlet, we suspect the MVP noise around his name might get a bit louder.

7. Minnesota Vikings

(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

(7-3. Last week: 11)

The big news in Minnesota’s 28-24 win over the Cowboys on Sunday night was Jason Garrett’s highly questionable play-calling, but throughout most of the game, the real story was running back Dalvin Cook, who sliced through Dallas’ estimable defense for 97 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries, adding a team-high 86 yards on seven catches. This performance put Cook in the league lead with 1,415 yards from scrimmage, and as much as the Vikings are elevated when Kirk Cousins plays well, this team has been sustained this season by Cook’s greatness and consistency. Aside from aberrations against the Eagles and Bears, in which defenses unafraid of Cousins tended to load the box, Cook has gained gained at least 70 rushing yards each week, and he has five games of over 100 rushing yards. This is how Mike Zimmer wants his offense to go, and Cook is ready for all of it.

6. Seattle Seahawks

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

(8-2. Last week: 6)

Through most of the 2019 season, Seattle’s defense has been an absolute liability, while Russell Wilson has had to take every game into his command. Against the 49ers in a brutally-fought game, that defense finally stepped up, led by edge-rusher Jadeveon Clowney, who finally put together the game he’s been waiting for since the Seahawks traded for him on Sept. 1. The Seahawks had 15 sacks and 29 QB hits coming into this game, and they turned it all around with five sacks and 10 quarterback hits in a 27-24 battle that went to the end of overtime. Clowney ruled the day with five tackles, a strip sack, five quarterback hits, and a fumble return for a touchdown. So, on a night when Wilson threw his second interception of the season to keep the 49ers alive, it was atypically that Seattle defense that ended up slamming the door.

5. Green Bay Packers

(Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)

(8-2. Last week: 10)

One week after a “burn the tape” game in which the Chargers shut the passing game down and ceaselessly harassed Aaron Rodgers, Packers head coach Matt LaFleur wisely went with a reset against Carolina’s defense, which came into this game ranked third in the NFL in Football Outsiders’ opponent-adjusted metrics against the pass, and dead last against the run. Rodgers completed 17 of 29 passes for 233 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions, but in this game, the best thing he did was to hand the ball off to Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. Both backs had 13 carries each, and both backs made the most of them in a 24-16 win. Jones scored three times to tie Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey for the league lead with 11 rushing touchdowns. That stat may surprise you, but it’s very much in line with LaFleur’s philosophy, which is to integrate the run game cohesively with the aerial attack, and lean on one when the other might not be working optimally. It’s a primary reason the Packers are tied with the Seahawks with the NFC’s second-best record.

4. New Orleans Saints

(Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports)

(7-2. Last week: 3)

No matter how good you are in the NFL, you’re bound to have at least one game in a season where everything just stinks. The Saints improbably experienced this against the Falcons on Sunday in a 26-9 loss to a team that hasn’t fielded a credible defense all year — until this game, when Drew Brees was sacked six times and experienced 11 quarterback hits against a suddenly ravenous Atlanta defensive front. The Falcons had gone five straight games without a sack, and they seemed to want to make it all up at once. Does this game portend larger issues, or was it an anomaly? The Saints have struggled with slow starts this season, and their offensive line is struggling with ineffectiveness, perhaps exacerbated by injuries. The most disconcerting injury right now, though, is the hamstring strain suffered by top cornerback Marshon Lattimore. Lattimore is week to week at this point, and the Saints next face a Buccaneers offense that knows how to exploit weakened secondaries.

3. New England Patriots

(Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports)

(8-1. Week 10 Bye. Last week: 2)

Are we right to be concerned about New England’s defense after what Lamar Jackson and the Ravens did to it in Week 9? Only if there’s a Lamar Jackson equivalent anywhere else in the NFL, which there isn’t. That said, when Bill Belichick’s team gets ready for its matchup against the Eagles after a much-needed bye week, there are (or should be) serious concerns on the other side of the ball. The Patriots are averaging 3.3 yards per rushing attempt this year, which is really weird for a team that averaged a full yard per carry more in 2018 and used that rushing attack to propel yet another Super Bowl win. And Tom Brady is starting to feel the pinch of a depleted receiving corps and marginal offensive line. Brady currently ranks 15th in Football Outsiders’ opponent-adjusted per-play metrics for quarterbacks; he hasn’t ranked that low since 2002 (his second year as a starter), when he was 16th. Philly has presented a get-well defense through most of the season, and this is an offense that needs to get well quickly.

2. San Francisco 49ers

(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

(8-1. Last week: 1)

With receiver Emmanuel Sanders off the field in the first half of San Francisco’s battle with the Seahawks due to a rib injury, and tight end George Kittle out of the game entirely with a knee injury, Jimmy Garoppolo was without his two best weapons in the passing game. It showed, as Garoppolo struggled to keep things together, especially as the game veered into overtime. Throughout the fourth and fifth quarters, Garoppolo sailed pass after pass and benefited from several dropped interceptions. San Francisco’s drop from the undefeated isn’t that big a deal in the grand scheme of things — they lost to a very good team playing at their best (especially on defense), and they did so seriously shorthanded. Kyle Shanahan’s team has the Cardinals next week to try and get things back together.

1. Baltimore Ravens

(AP Photo/Frank Victores)

(7-2. Last week: 4)

One week after turning the Patriots’ defense into a pumpkin with a commanding performance both as a passer and runner, Lamar Jackson made his 16th career start against the Bengals on Sunday. So, given a full season to evaluate what Jackson has done in those starts, things are looking pretty good.

Per ESPN’s Paul Hembekides, in his first 16 starts, Jackson has done more and better than each of these players in his first 16 starts:

More rushing yards than LaDainian Tomlinson (1,258 to 1,236)

A better passer rating than Tom Brady (94.4 to 90.1)

A better yards-per-attempt rate than Aaron Rodgers (7.6 to 7.5)

A higher completion percentage than Drew Brees (63% to 61%).

In Baltimore’s 49-13 blowout of the Bengals, Jackson completed 15 of 17 passes for 223 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, making him the second quarterback in NFL history to record two games in the same season with a perfect passer rating, following Ben Roethlisberger in 2007.

As Jackson likes to say, not bad for a running back. Though he’s pretty good at the running thing, too. There are all kinds of reasons the Ravens are the new top team in these power rankings, and Jackson is the primary.

Touchdown Wire editor Doug Farrar has also covered football for Yahoo! Sports, Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report, the Washington Post, and Football Outsiders. His first book, “The Genius of Desperation,” a schematic history of professional football, was published by Triumph Books in 2018 and won the Professional Football Researchers Association’s Nelson Ross Award for “Outstanding recent achievement in pro football research and historiography.”

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Ranking all 32 NFL teams by record in the 2010s decade

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a group of football players on the field: Seattle Seahawks kicker Jason Myers (5) celebrates after kicking the game-winning field goal during overtime against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium.


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