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NFL Power Rankings: Week 11

The+Kansas+City+Chiefs%27+Marcus+Peters+%2822%29+gestures+to+the+crowd+in+the+second+quarter+against+the+Oakland+Raiders+at+the+Coliseum+in+Oakland%2C+Calif.%2C+on+Thursday%2C+Oct.+19%2C+2017.+The+Raiders+won%2C+31-30.+%28Doug+Duran%2FBay+Area+News+Group%2FTNS%29
The Kansas City Chiefs' Marcus Peters (22) gestures to the crowd in the second quarter against the Oakland Raiders at the Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. The Raiders won, 31-30. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group/TNS)

The Kansas City Chiefs' Marcus Peters (22) gestures to the crowd in the second quarter against the Oakland Raiders at the Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. The Raiders won, 31-30. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group/TNS)

The Kansas City Chiefs' Marcus Peters (22) gestures to the crowd in the second quarter against the Oakland Raiders at the Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. The Raiders won, 31-30. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group/TNS)

Nick Merriam, Banner Columnist

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Interestingly enough, week 10 made some major changes in these rankings. Most of these changes are because of my false judgments, but they still make sense in the grand scheme of things. This is the week where we began to see who will create momentum going into the coldest football months. One team, in particular, the Panthers, I was completely wrong on. Anyways, let’s rank them.

32 – Cleveland Browns (0-9) Last Week: 32

Congratulations Cleveland! You will again be the first NFL team to have a double-digit number in the record column. The problem is it’s the loss column. Cleveland, believe it or not, led the Lions in the second half at Ford Field on Sunday. In usual Browns fashion, Cleveland still found a way to lose by multiple touchdowns. Cleveland will be looking for an ‘it’ factor in the upcoming draft. Whether it be Sam Darnold or Saquon Barkley, the Browns need a player who performs better as the game goes longer.

31 – New York Giants (1-8) LW: 30

Ben McAdoo’s coaching career is in jeopardy. This weekend, the Giants had arguably their worst loss since Super Bowl XXXV. New York just isn’t getting the production it expected from its star players. Janoris Jenkins made the worst tackling attempt I’ve ever seen from a pro bowl corner on Sunday. New York is now the clear worst team in the NFC and has to be planning for a big-time selection at quarterback or offensive line in the upcoming draft.

30 – San Francisco 49ers (1-9) LW: 31

The 49ers will get a well deserved week to celebrate their victory now that they are on a bye. Sunday’s win against the Giants may go down as a historic one for this franchise. The 31-21 victory marks the first in the Kyle Shanahan-John Lynch era. NFL historians may look back someday and recognize this win as a turning point. It is clear San Francisco’s season is over, but the franchise is trending upward.

29 – Houston Texans (3-6) LW: 25

That escalated quickly. Houston is now looking like a completely lost cause after the injury to Deshaun Watson. There isn’t any fight left on this team. To be fair, losing by 26 points to the Rams is not uncommon these days, but the way Houston gave up is depressing. The Texans have been destroyed by injuries, and they know it. Bill O’Brien seems to have his club preparing for 2018 already.

28 – Denver Broncos (3-6) LW: 24

Where do I start with the Broncos? Denver’s offense continued to struggle in the red zone, and the once dominant defense again gave up over 40 points. Denver’s pass rush can’t hit home, and worst of all the special teams is beginning to fall apart. CJ Anderson’s early impact on the run game is no longer relevant, and Brock Osweiler has not been the answer at quarterback. Denver hasn’t played a close football game since week 4. If not for the Broncos great start, they would be serious contenders for the 32 spot right now.

27 – Miami Dolphins (4-5) LW: 22

I really thought that Miami had begun to find strides as a pass-first offense. As it turns out, Jay Cutler could have thrown for 500 yards and Miami still would have lost because their front seven couldn’t stop a sloth at running back on Monday night. The Dolphins still, believe it or not, have a shot at a wild-card spot in an awful AFC playoff race. With the Bills falling apart, it’s anybody’s game. Kenyan Drake has looked good as a replacement in the backfield for Jay Ajayi, but it won’t matter if the Dolphins give up 30+ points a game.

26 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-6) LW: 29

Finally, a third win comes for the Buccaneers, and it was ugly. Tampa’s pass defense had really struggled to come into their matchup with the Jets, and they put up their strongest performance this week against Josh McCown. I’m not saying that this is a season-changing victory for the Buccaneers, but I am saying that some improvements were made. The one thing that continues to disappoint me is the lack of explosiveness on offense from Tampa. The Buccaneers have not done a good job taking advantage of their weapons. On a brighter note, DeSean Jackson is beginning to play better.

25 – Arizona Cardinals (4-5) LW: 27

This is a slight move up for the Cardinals despite a loss. The only reason for this upward movement is that the teams below Arizona have played considerably worse over the past couple weeks. Brock Osweiler and Tom Savage basically made this happen. The Cardinals still are technically alive in the NFC playoff race at 4-5, but it is unlikely that they will make much noise with an inconsistent run game, and a porous pass defense.

24 – New York Jets (4-6) LW: 20

Well, this is the week where I lose all hope in the Jets. After I talked last week about how the Jets should be given a chance in the wide-open AFC wild-card race, they turned in their worst performance of 2017 with an ugly 15-10 loss to the reeling Buccaneers. The difference on Sunday was New York’s inability to run the football. Josh McCown’s deep ball has guided this offense all year long; without the run game Tampa Bay was able to sit in deep quarters all game long and defend the numerous streak and corner routes ran by Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse. This loss is a disappointing setback for a promising Jets team.

23 – Indianapolis Colts (3-7) LW: 28

You know what? Let’s give the Colts some credit after back to back solid performances. Indianapolis may have lost on Sunday, but they looked like a team riding off the momentum from their win at Houston. The Colts deserve credit for doing the only thing that bad teams can do to win. Once a failing football team generates any sort of success, they have to use it as fuel going forward. Jacoby Brissett’s success has certainly fueled the Colts over the past two weeks, and I won’t be surprised if they pull off a shocking upset later this year because of it.

22 – Cincinnati Bengals (3-6) LW: 23

Here’s another team that moved up despite a loss. The Bengals have had an extremely rough start to 2017, and since their 0-3 start, they’ve put together a respectable 3-3 run. Andy Dalton’s play hasn’t been playoff worthy, but it shouldn’t be scolded. Cincinnati just doesn’t have the talent that they used to have, and they’re showing it by playing like a mediocre football club. I’ve got a bold prediction that isn’t so bold: Marvin Lewis will not be fired at this season’s end.

21 – Baltimore Ravens (4-5) LW: 21

The Bye week keeps the Ravens locked in at the 21 spot. As already mentioned numerous times before, the AFC wild-card race is wide open and any team with a 3-6 or better record stands a chance at snatching it. Baltimore is 4-5 with a relatively easy schedule the rest of the way. If the Ravens can find a way to score 21 points a game for the rest of the season, they should be able to reach 9-7. Unfortunately, that is an extremely large task for a team that has had an inconsistent rush attack, and whose best quarterback has been Ryan Mallett.

20 – Chicago Bears (3-6) LW: 19

Mitchell Trubisky played well on Sunday, so why did the Bears lose? I thought for certain that with Packers struggling offensively, and the Bears compiling solid performance after solid performance, that Chicago would win an important division game at home. Instead, the Bears have basically been eliminated from playoff contention in a stockpiled NFC wild-card race. The loss occurred because of the surprising breakdown of the Bears rush defense, and the ineffectiveness of Jordan Howard. The two units that had performed best for Chicago failed to show up in the Bears most important game.

19 – Buffalo Bills (5-4) LW: 16

Let the fallout begin! After two straight losses, the Bills find themselves in a downward trend, yet still in the playoffs if they started today. That’s why Bills’ GM Brandon Beane had decided to bench the inconsistent, yet flashy, Tyrod Taylor in favor of an unproven fifth-round pick, Nathan Peterman. The argument I’ve heard from Tyrod haters is that he’s only thrown for 1,684 yards. My response is that passing yards don’t show all of the plays that Taylor makes with his legs. Taylor has accounted for 12 touchdowns to only 3 interceptions along with a 91.4 quarterback rating. I’m sorry, I just don’t see the problem here. What about the defense giving up 47 points? Nope. That’s clearly not a problem. The Bills are going to bench their quarterback. It looks like the missed playoff streak will stretch to 18 years in Buffalo.

18 – Los Angeles Chargers (3-6) LW: 13

The Chargers have been beaten up by an absolutely brutal schedule. With the Jaguars stealing one from Philip Rivers and company late, Los Angeles may be playing for their season this week. While the Chargers are struggling to stay alive in a HORRIBLE AFC PLAYOFF RACE, they shouldn’t worry. Now that the Bills have benched Tyrod Taylor, the Chargers should be favorites going into this week. With a balanced offense, a better than average special teams, and a dominant defense, the Chargers could sneak into the playoffs with an 8-8 record.

17 – Oakland Raiders (4-5) LW: 17

There will be no movement for the Raiders this week after their bye. With the horrible start Oakland has had, it should be noted that it is completely crazy that they are the sixth highest ranked team in the AFC, in these power rankings. That means that there are only five AFC teams in the top sixteen. That’s just horrible. Derek Carr and company have won two of their past three and may be the only stable team left in the race for the sixth seed. With a defense that couldn’t stop a fly, Oakland must rely on Carr’s leadership and passing talents to guide them to the playoffs. I trust that he can do that.

16 – Washington Redskins (4-5) LW: 14

With the toughest strength of schedule thus far, and the most injuries in the league, I’m not counting out the Redskins just yet. Washington was beaten by a better team on Sunday, but it is disappointing that they couldn’t win after a great performance from Kirk Cousins. The Redskins have contended with good teams all season long and even picked up some upsets on the road against the Rams and Seahawks. They have a huge matchup this weekend on the road against the Saints, and in that game, we will learn a lot about Washington.

15 – Green Bay Packers (5-4) LW: 26

I just realized something. Brett Hundley has only lost to good teams this season. The win against the Bears shows that Green Bay will not be knocked out of the playoff race just because of an Aaron Rodgers injury. The Packers are the type of team that will perform better as the weather gets colder, and that should scare NFC wild-card contenders. If Hundley’s performance is a sign of things to come, the Packers are right in the thick of things. With big matchups against the Panthers and Lions later this season, don’t count out Green Bay just yet.

14 – Dallas Cowboys (5-4) LW: 7

That was a bad performance from America’s team in Atlanta. The losses of Tyron Smith, Sean Lee, and obviously Ezekiel Elliot all showed up big time. Dak Prescott was sacked eight times, the Dallas offense couldn’t find a rhythm, and the Dallas defense made Atlanta’s offense look like it was back in 2016 again. If this is a sign of things to come for the Cowboys, I don’t like their chances of making the playoffs. In fact, forget making the playoffs. I don’t know that this Cowboys team can win a game in their current state.

13 – Detroit Lions (5-4) LW: 15

The Lions will move up despite their lowly performance on Sunday. When you play the Cleveland Browns close into the 4th quarter, it’s tough to find reasons to be happy about a win. Here’s the reason I found: The Lions have an improving receiving corps. Although Marvin Jones Jr didn’t put forth his best game, we did see Golden Tate make the big plays down the stretch to win. The Lions can expect that at least one of their top two receivers will perform well on a weekly basis, and that is the type of stability that GMs and coaches love.

12 – Atlanta Falcons (5-4) LW: 18

This is such a weird season. I don’t like this football team. The Falcons don’t play consistently enough on defense, and Matt Ryan is an overrated quarterback. Without Devonta Freeman, I’m surprised by how well the Falcons played on Sunday. It was a huge win for Atlanta, but I’m not buying that it was the Falcons play that won the game. Atlanta caught Dallas at the right time and will benefit mightily from it. On the brighter side of things, Atlanta now owns the head to head tiebreakers with the Packers, Lions, and Cowboys. Each of those teams is 5-4 and battling for the NFC’s sixth seed. The Falcons will have another tiebreaker opportunity this week against the NFC’s current six seed, the Seattle Seahawks.

11 – Seattle Seahawks (6-3) LW: 11

Whoa! What a transition! It’s almost like this was planned. The Seahawks victory in Arizona on Thursday night came at a huge cost with Richard Sherman tearing his Achilles tendon. This development is similar to the how Seattle lost Earl Thomas last year in a rather open NFC race. The NFC race is wide open again, and again the Seahawks will not benefit. The most dangerous thing for Seattle is the Falcons. Atlanta now has some confidence after blowing out the Cowboys. Seattle doesn’t want to face a confident Falcons’ offense, without their top cornerback, in a key matchup for determining the NFC wild-card spots. Oh wait, they have to.

10 – Carolina Panthers (7-3) LW: 12

Perhaps the most confusing 7-3 team in NFL history is beginning to gain my trust. The 45 point explosion on Monday night reminded me of the 2015 Panthers. Again, Cam Newton has been extremely inconsistent all season long, but on Monday night he looked like an MVP candidate. If Cam continues to perform like this, I don’t see how the Panthers shouldn’t be considered NFC contenders. I’m sorry for doubting you Carolina, and I will never pick you to lose to Jay Cutler ever again or anyone else for that matter.

9 – Kansas City Chiefs (6-3) LW: 9

Bye week teams don’t move if I can help it. This week I could help it. Kansas City needs to put more faith in its rushing attack. The Chiefs have gotten away from the formula that helped them jump out to a 5-0 start. Kareem Hunt is a great running back and the Chiefs offensive line is one of the most underrated units in the NFL. I worry that Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce have made Andy Reid pass happy, and it is important that he stays loyal to the ground game as the Chiefs play caller. I still consider the Chiefs as a major contender in the AFC, and for the Super Bowl.

8 – Tennessee Titans (6-3) LW: 10

The Titans get way too much hate for just showing up, and winning games. Analysts shouldn’t be allowed to shun four-game win streaks. Yet, I bet you didn’t realize the Titans were on a four-game win streak until I told you. Marcus Mariota is a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback. He isn’t a flashy player, but he is a competitor. DeMarco Murray turned in his best game this week after struggling with injuries all season long. The stars are aligning at the right time for the Titans, and they have a great opportunity to prove themselves at Pittsburgh on Thursday Night Football.

7 – Pittsburgh Steelers (7-2) LW: 2

This is a big tumble for the Steelers, but it makes sense considering the inconsistencies we are used to seeing from Mike Tomlin coached teams. The Steelers cannot put forward their worst performances late in the season. Pittsburgh continuously is the team that performs well in the regular season when they have to but falters in playoffs. If the Steelers continue to lose focus, I don’t think a seventh ring is possible. Le’Veon Bell needs to contribute more than 3.07 yards per carrying.

6 – Jacksonville Jaguars (6-3) LW: 8

I don’t like having the Jaguars ahead of the Titans because they lost 37-16 to Tennessee earlier this year, but when I look at Jacksonville I think they are a team that can win in Foxborough in January. I don’t think that of the Titans. Defense wins championships and the Jaguars have the best defense in football. Blake Bortles could be Mark Sanchez and it wouldn’t matter because Jacksonville is good at everything else. The Jags special teams are an above average unit, their offensive line has been brilliant, and their rush offense leads the league in yards per game. Believe it or not, Jacksonville is really really good.

5 – New Orleans Saints (7-2) LW: 6

It’s tough to only move the Saints up one spot after a near perfectly played game on Sunday. New Orleans is turning into one of the most complete teams in football with the 3rd ranked offense in points for and the 5th ranked defense in points against. Drew Brees doesn’t even have to be a workhorse for this offense as Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara are leading one of the most dynamic backfields in football. The only thing that worries me about New Orleans is that they haven’t beaten a team with a top passing offense yet this year. They will get an opportunity to prove it against the Redskins this week.

4 – Minnesota Vikings (7-2) LW: 5

Case Keenum is playing really good football, and the Vikings are wise to keep him as their starter. Keenum’s hot hand with Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs running the best routes in football combines for one of weirdest dominant pass games I’ve seen in a long time. It was impressive to see the Vikings offense carry the load on Sunday after their defense turned in one of its worst performances. Another thing that continues to fly under the radar is that Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon have kept this team’s rushing attack alive.

3 – Los Angeles Rams (7-2) LW: 3

Another blowout win and another amazing offensive performance for the Rams. I can’t wait for some of these games coming up on the Rams schedule. Most notably, a matchup between number one and number two overall picks Jared Goff and Carson Wentz. The Rams are just another team that has shocked this year and has an opportunity to make a Super Bowl run. The weird thing about Los Angeles is the inexperience of their head coach, Sean McVay, won’t matter. McVay is quietly putting together the strongest bid for coach of the year.

2 – New England Patriots (7-2) LW: 4

The Patriots walked out of Mile High Stadium completely unfazed. It’s kind of frightening what the Patriots did in a 41-16 dismemberment of the entire Denver Broncos ball club. It’s hard to really emphasize how badly the Patriots beat the Broncos on Sunday Night Football. New England ruled in all phases of the game, and in typical fashion, was never ever in fear of losing. The poor start from New England is in the rearview mirror, and a scary good team is emerging week by week.

1 – Philadelphia Eagles (8-1) LW: 1

The Eagles can effectively clinch the division in week 11 with a win against the Dallas Cowboys. Coming off the bye, Philadelphia doesn’t have much to worry about. The Eagles have won seven straight games, are 8-1, and have dominated in half of their wins. The schedule may get more difficult for the Eagles going forward, but with the grit of Carson Wentz on their side, they should continue to roll towards the NFC’s top seed, and maybe more.

For this and more great articles by columnist Nick Merriam, visit his blog, The Hashmarks.

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NFL Power Rankings: Week 11