Every team in the NFL could learn something from the Ravens at this point. Baltimore has committed to running the football on a regular basis, and it’s working. Actually, the best teams in the league right now rely heavily on their ground games. San Francisco, Minnesota, Seattle all run the ball well week in and week out. In fact, none of the top 11 teams in rushing yards per game are below .500. There are a few teams that could really use a good dose of ground and pound, like Rex Ryan used to say. The Bears, Rams and Chargers all have quarterbacks clearly struggling right, yet keep throwing the ball way more than they should.
All that being said, everyone is looking up at the Ravens once again. It was a pretty drab week in the NFL in terms of upsets and the like. A few came close, but Arizona, Cincinnati and Denver could not pull off the stunning result. Speaking of results, none of the top eight teams moved due to the expected outcomes of these games. Teams 9-32 saw a fair about of movement though. The middle of the NFL continues to feel like a mess right now. The level of parity in the NFL is certainly at an all-time high. Let’s dive in to all the action from this weekend.
1. Baltimore Ravens: 8-2 (Last Week: 1)
Won 41-7 vs. Houston
It was another dominant performance for the MVP front-runner and company. Lamar Jackson accounted for four more touchdowns en route to a blowout victory over the Texans. Baltimore looks like the most complete team in the league by a mile. The offense is clicking and seemingly unstoppable, while the defense continues to get better as the year rolls on. Shutting down Deshaun Watson is not an easy task, but the Ravens had no problem doing it. This looks like a clear challenger to the Patriots’ AFC reign.
2. New England Patriots: 9-1 (Last Week: 2)
Won 17-10 at Philadelphia
It wasn’t pretty. In fact, the offense was pretty ugly once again. For the third time this season, Tom Brady failed to throw a touchdown pass. Now it doesn’t really matter because style points don’t win games, but there is some growing concern about this group’s ability to contend down the stretch given the lack of proven playmakers. Mohamed Sanu has integrated himself well, but New England desperately needs someone to step up during it’s final six games of the regular season.
3. Seattle Seahawks: 8-2 (Last Week: 3)
Seattle is undoubtedly focused on itself, but it had to be hoping for a Cardinals upset of the 49ers to give the Seahawks the division lead. Russell Wilson will get a chance to play the San Francisco again, this time in Seattle, but that will have to wait until after matchups with the Eagles, Vikings, Rams, Panthers and Cardinals. This is going to be a tough final stretch for the Seahawks to reach the playoffs, despite how good they’ve already been.
4. San Francisco 49ers: 9-1 (Last Week: 4)
Won 36-26 vs. Arizona
For a while there, San Francisco seemed headed for a second straight loss after an 8-0 start to the year. The 49ers rallied to avoid an upset, but this was not a feel-good win. Despite the final scoreline, this was actually a one-score game. The Niners recovered a fumble in the end zone on the final play of the game to stretch out their margin of victory. Jimmy Garoppolo remains a big concern. In two games against the Cardinals, he averaged 370.5 passing yards with eight touchdowns and two interceptions. In his other eight games, Garoppolo averages 217.1 yards per game with 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He needs to step up against better competition.
5. New Orleans Saints: 8-2 (Last Week: 5)
Won 34-17 at Tampa Bay
New Orleans proved last week’s loss to Atlanta was just a fluke with a get-right win over Tampa Bay. The Saints leaned into the best wide receiver-running back duo in the league, feeding Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara. Four interceptions of Jameis Winston made the offense’s job a lot easier as well. It seems like this team is back on track after a wake-up call in the form of that stunning loss, but Sean Payton has to make sure the Saints don’t slip up again with playoff seeding coming into play.
6. Green Bay Packers: 8-2 (Last Week: 6)
A late-season bye week for Green Bay comes at a time when the team is finally coming together. The outlier obviously still stands after that head-scratching loss to the Chargers, but on the whole, this group seems headed in the right direction. Aaron Jones is tied for the league lead in rushing touchdowns and Davante Adams finally looks like he is at full strength. Matt LaFleur still needs to find a way to patch up a mediocre run defense, but the Packers have a shot at a first-round bye. Green Bay faces San Francisco on Sunday night with massive playoff implications on the line.
7. Minnesota Vikings: 8-3 (Last Week: 7)
Won 27-23 vs. Denver
The first half of Sunday’s game was very reminiscent of Minnesota shocking loss to Buffalo last year early in the season. In some bizarre fashion, the Vikings trailed 20-0 at halftime on Sunday, and it could have been worse. Andrew Sendejo intercepted a pass in the end zone just before half to keep it a 20-point margin. Kirk Cousins led a furious comeback as Minnesota outscored Denver 27-3 the rest of the way. While it would be easy to point and say this was a terrible start, Cousins has struggled to lead comebacks throughout his time with the Vikings. This was actually a huge confidence boost.
8. Kansas City Chiefs: 6-4 (Last Week: 8)
Won 24-17 at Los Angeles (Mexico)
Los Angeles outgained Kansas City by 128 yards, but KC’s defense picked off Philip Rivers four times, including in the end zone to seal the victory. This was one the Chiefs had to have in order to stay atop the AFC West. Andy Reid’s team finally gets its bye week now in Week 12 with a chance to get some nagging injuries taken care of. Damien Williams and Tyreek Hill exited with injuries on Monday night. Kansas City doesn’t quite look like the team that pushed New England to the brink last year in the AFC Championship game, but they are still going to be a tough out with Patrick Mahomes under center.
9. Dallas Cowboys: 6-4 (Last Week: 10)
Won 35-28 at Detroit
It was not quite as convincing as most Cowboys fans probably would have preferred, but it was still a win over an NFC opponent. Dallas now opens up a one-game lead on Philadelphia as well. Dak Prescott was masterful yet again with 444 yards and three touchdowns. However, Ezekiel Elliott went missing in action and the defense struggled to shut down Jeff Driskel. Elliott managed 45 yards on 16 carries, but did reel in a receiving touchdown. Driskel had 209 yards through the air and two touchdowns. He added 51 yards on the ground and another score. It was a win, but the Cowboys also have a few troubling trends.
10. Oakland Raiders: 6-4 (Last Week: 14)
Won 17-10 vs. Cincinnati
In easily the worst game of the week, the Raiders edged the Bengals in an uninspiring showing. Given how well Derek Carr and Josh Jacobs played, it is hard to figure out how the offense only managed 17 points. Give the defense a ton of credit though for making Ryan Finley’s life miserable. He completed just 13 of 31 passes and suffered five sacks. Oakland’s defense has been trending up in recent weeks. Assuming this was just an off week for Jon Gruden’s offense, the Raiders seem like a real threat to the Chiefs for the division title.
11. Houston Texans: 6-4 (Last Week: 9)
Lost 41-7 at Baltimore
We learned on Sunday that the Texans are not contenders in the AFC. In a game between two of the the top three teams according to record heading into the weekend, Houston got steamrolled by Lamar Jackson and company. Deshaun Watson had his least effective game of the year. The Texans have to do some soul searching following this loss. They lost control of the division again and the defense was exposed without J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. Bill O’Brien has a ton of work to do to right the ship here.
12. Los Angeles Rams: 6-4 (Last Week: 13)
Won 17-7 vs. Chicago
It wasn’t perfect, actually far from it, but there is a lot to like about how the Rams played on Sunday night. Sean McVay finally ran the ball. Los Angeles actually moved away from its traditional zone scheme and tried more of a power run approach. The initial returns seem positive. Todd Gurley had 97 yards even if he wasn’t the most effective in the process. Asking Jared Goff to throw the ball only 18 seems like a better plan going forward, but he has to stop making the backbreaking mistakes and throw the ball away if the Rams are going to keep winning.
13. Philadelphia Eagles: 5-5 (Last Week: 12)
Lost 17-10 vs. New England
Injuries continue to plague the Eagles as Jordan Howard, Alshon Jeffrey and Nigel Bradham all missed the game for Philly, and it showed. Doug Pederson still is not running the ball enough, forcing Carson Wentz to throw the ball 40 times in this loss. Defensively, this was about as good of a performance as anyone could have hoped for. The Patriots might not be as prolific as they once were, but holding Tom Brady without a touchdown is impressive and holding the ground game to 3.4 yards per carry is a good sign of what’s to come. The biggest issue here is the lack of a complete game from the Eagles. Very rarely have we seen them put it all together in the same week.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers: 5-5 (Last Week: 11)
Lost 21-7 at Cleveland
In a weird way, Mason Rudolph was the luckiest player on the field despite being hit in the head with a helmet. He was not suspended for his part in the brawl that broke out Thursday night, he did not suffer a serious injury from the helmet hitting him and the focus was shifted away from his miserable performance. Rudolph threw four interceptions in a total meltdown against the Browns defense. His constant turnovers derailed the Steelers’ postseason chase. An easy schedule still gives Pittsburgh a chance, but this was a huge mistake.
15. Buffalo Bills: 7-3 (Last Week: 17)
Won 37-20 at Miami
After a rough offensive showing in Cleveland, Josh Allen turned in the best outing of his young career. He had three passing touchdowns and added another one on the ground without turning the ball over. John Brown continues to look like one of the best free agent signing in the league, posting nine catches for 153 yards and two scores. It was against a team lacking talent, but this was the exactly the type of performance needed to quiet some of the doubts creeping in about the Bills.
16. Indianapolis Colts: 6-4 (Last Week: 18)
Won 33-13 vs. Jacksonville
In the on-again, off-again saga that is the Indianapolis Colts. One week after an embarrassing loss against the Dolphins, the Colts bounced back with a thorough thrashing of the Jaguars. With Jacoby Brissett coming off a knee injury, Indy gave him plenty of help. With Marlon Mack and Johnathan Williams topping the century mark, the Colts had two 100-yard rushers for the first time since 1985. It’s not all good news though, as Mack fractured his hand. He will likely miss some time. That blow could be softened if T.Y. Hilton ever returns from injury. Despite all the adversity, Indy leads the division.
17. Tennessee Titans: 5-5 (Last Week: 15)
This is the definition of an average team. Tennessee has dominant wins over Cleveland and Atlanta with close wins over the Chargers, Buccaneers and Chiefs. However, the Titans are 0-2 in the division and were shutout by the Broncos earlier this year. What comes next is anyone’s guess. Derrick Henry has shown signs of being the feature back many hoped he could be and Ryan Tannehill has offered a bit of stability, but this team still doesn’t look like a true playoff contender. This will be an interesting team to watch over the final six games. It could end up in the postseason or in the top 10 of the draft.
18. Carolina Panthers: 5-5 (Last Week: 16)
Lost 29-3 vs. Atlanta
Oh boy. Cam Newton needs to come back. I will admit I was wrong when I said Carolina could move on from Newton in favor of Kyle Allen. One game doesn’t dictate a season or a career, but Allen has shown he has a very low floor. He laid an egg Sunday against the Falcons in a game the Panthers needed to win to keep pace in the postseason hunt. It looked a lot like the dud he produced when facing the 49ers a few weeks back. Christian McCaffrey can continue to be the best player in the league, but he needs a bit of help for Carolina to win games.
19. Cleveland Browns: 4-6 (Last Week: 24)
Won 21-7 vs. Steelers
Make it two in a row. Cleveland’s defense has come to play in the past two weeks. Unfortunately, that was all over shadowed by Myles Garrett’s ridiculous decision to rip Mason Rudolph’s helmet off his head and hit him with it. What we would’ve been talking about would be the Browns beating the Steelers and Ravens for the first times since the franchise started back up again in 1999. Instead, Cleveland must find a way to keep this momentum going without arguably its best player.
20. Atlanta Falcons: 3-7 (Last Week: 27)
Won 29-3 at Carolina
I have no idea what has gotten into this Falcons defense, but they are on a roll! After no signs of life for about eight weeks, Atlanta has roared to life. The Falcons have 11 sacks over the past two weeks, which is ridiculous when you consider they had only seven through their first eight games. Whatever changes Dan Quinn is making are clearly working. With four interceptions of Kyle Allen, his defense is suddenly playing like one of the best in the league. That’s also back-to-back games without a touchdown allowed. This looks like the Falcons team I expected coming into the season.
21. Jacksonville Jaguars: 4-6 (Last Week: 19)
Lost 33-13 at Indianapolis
That wasn’t quite the welcome back I’m sure Nick Foles was hoping for. The veteran quarterback was fine in his return from injury, but the defense got gashed by the ground attack. Leonard Fournette could not get going and Foles simply did not make enough plays to make up for all of that. Jacksonville is slipping away from the playoff race, but still just sits two games back of Indianapolis in the division. There is no game remaining on the schedule that feels like the Jags are going to be overmatched in, but there also isn’t one that you feel confident in them one winning. Foles will need to channel some magic if hopes of another run are going to live.
22. Chicago Bears: 4-6 (Last Week 20)
Lost 17-7 at Los Angeles
We might be nearing the end of Mitchell Trubisky’s time in Chicago, at least as the starter. He suffered a non-specific hip injury on Sunday, exiting in the final stages and never returning. He might have genuinely been hurt, but it wouldn’t be a shock if Matt Nagy just pulled him. The Bears have been one of the biggest let downs of the year. The offense still can’t break out of its funk and the defense isn’t good enough anymore to carry them. Chicago’s playoff hopes are all but dead at this point.
23. Detroit Lions: 3-6-1 (Last Week: 21)
Lost 35-27 vs. Dallas
Jeff Driskel played better in his second week of action, but this team still really missed Matthew Stafford. Defensively, the Lions took Ezekiel Elliott out of the equation, holding him to just 45 yards rushing. Unfortunately, they forgot to account for Dak Prescott, who torched the secondary over and over again. Detroit’s defense is a real problem, which makes Matt Patricia a candidate to lose his job at the end of the year. He was supposed to be a defensive specialist coming from the Patriots, but has failed to make his mark on the unit.
24. Denver Broncos: 3-7 (Last Week: 23)
Lost 27-23 at Minnesota
For one half, it looked like the Broncos were finally putting together all the pieces to beat one of the top teams in the league. Then Denver suffered one of the worst collapses we’ve seen this side of Atlanta’s Super Bowl debacle. Defensively, there is a lot to like about shutting down Dalvin Cook, but Kirk Cousins went off after halftime. Brandon Allen struggled to make plays in the late stages. The focus can officially shift to next season now as this team evaluates young players and veterans alike to determine the best path forward.
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 3-6 (Last Week: 22)
Lost 34-17 vs, New Orleans
Jameis Winston continues to show his incredible talent mixed with maddening inconsistency every week. He is setting himself up to be on a different roster next year as a backup. Four more interceptions on Sunday against the Saints see him distance himself from the pack. He has 18 on the season. Philip Rivers is next with 14. Now, he got no help from the run game. He accounted for 23 of the team’s 36 rushing yards. It also might have helped to run the ball more than eight times. There are a lot of team that need to commit to the run more often to take pressure off some of these struggling quarterbacks.
26. Arizona Cardinals: 3-7-1 (Last Week: 26)
Lost 36-26 at San Francisco
Arizona looked competitive with San Francisco once again, but ultimately came up short again. Defensively, the Cardinals shut down what has been an unstoppable ground game from the 49ers. However, they got carved up in the secondary once again by Jimmy Garoppolo, even without George Kittle. Arizona has been much more of a challenger than its record would indicate and of all the first year coaches, Kliff Kingsbury is probably the one I feel second-most optimistic about, behind Matt LaFleur. It will be interesting to see how the Cardinals fair after a full offseason under their belts with Kyler Murray.
27. Los Angeles Chargers: 4-7 (Last Week: 25)
Lost 24-17 vs. Kansas City (Mexico)
Pull the plug on everything in Los Angeles. I know every one of the Chargers losses this season have been by one possession, but it’s time to rebuild and restructure. Philip Rivers is in the midst of the downturn of his career. He threw four interceptions to bring his season total to 14. His touchdown percentage has plummeted and he simply looks uncomfortable making plays from the pocket, frequently pumping before actually throwing to his target. Injuries have played a role, but Rivers’ poor play is a growing issue.
28. New York Jets: 3-7 (Last Week: 29)
Won 34-17 at Washington
New York goes back-to-back with wins of the NFC East cellar. Sam Darnold put up a career-high four touchdown passes against a struggling Washington defense. These are the types of things that will help Adam Gase keep his job at the end of the year. If Darnold is showing signs of progression, that is going to make a world of difference. Weirdly enough, the Jets are 3-1 against the NFC East and 0-6 against everyone else. Not exactly a great sign of the success this team has had, but this was the type of game where a loss would’ve felt catastrophic. At least the defense is looking stellar. Jamal Adams is making a legitimate case to be an All-Pro.
29. Miami Dolphins: 2-8 (Last Week: 28)
Lost 37-20 vs. Buffalo
This was coming back down to Earth in a way. It might be an odd way to explain a 2-7 team dropping to 2-8, but the loss Sunday against Buffalo snapped a two-game win streak for Miami. It was a good reminder about how far this group still has to go. There is no question the Dolphins are putting a much better product on the field now than they were at the beginning of the season. Turning this roster around will take some time. On top of that, there are some small things to get excited about, like the play of DeVante Parker and scoring at least 20 points for the third time this year.
30. New York Giants: 2-8 (Last Week: 30)
A week off hopefully gives Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram a chance to get healthy. The offensive line has been a bit banged up as well. Thankfully, the offense has looked okay despite the injuries. Defensively, the Giants are a mess. The trade for Leonard Williams still doesn’t make any sense and the back end looks hopeless. If New York is going to win games the rest of the way, it will be by outscoring opposing offenses.
31. Washington: 1-9 (Last Week: 29)
Lost 34-17 vs. New York
It was another lackluster start for Dwayne Haskins. He made some strides late in the game, but it was well out of reach by that point. It was certainly not a good week either for the Washington offensive line, which gave up six sacks and paved the way for a pathetic 2.7 yards per carry. The defense wasn’t much better, giving up four touchdown passes to Sam Darnold. Washington needs tons of help across the board. On the bright side, Derrius Guice finally came back and showed some of the promise he had in college on a 45-yard screen pass he scored. The focus is on next year and possibly even beyond for this group.
32. Cincinnati Bengals: 0-10 (Last Week: 32)
Lost 17-10 at Oakland
The world brutal comes to mind when reflecting on the Bengals game with the Raiders. Despite a decent effort defensively to hold Oakland to 17 points, Cincinnati turned in a woeful performance on offense. Rookie quarterback Ryan Finley spent much of the game running for his life and certainly does not look like the solution at the position. Barring an unexpected resurgence or some kind of otherworldly performance from A.J. Green when he finally gets back on the field, this team is going to have the first overall pick.
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