Russell Wilson and the Seahawks were stifled by Gerald McCoy and the Buccaneers. (Reinhold Matay/USA Today Sports)
The biggest upset of the week was when the Buccaneers shut down the Seahawks offense and held Russell Wilson and company to just five points. Other than that, you could say the Chiefs and Lions winning were upsets, but anything can happen in divisional games. So as a result, not a ton of movement here in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. As a result of Sunday’s loss, Seattle drops out of the top five, while the Chiefs sneak in after beating the Broncos. The defending Super Bowl champs really needed to win that game on Sunday night. They have five games left on their schedule, and three of them are against the Patriots, Chiefs and Raiders.
The NFC South saw big wins from everyone except the Panthers. Right now the Falcons have the inside track on winning the division, but Matt Ryan doesn’t exactly play up the to the “Matty Ice” moniker he earned in college, so the Saints and Bucs still stand a chance to get in.
The Giants and Dolphins both extended their winning streaks to six games, but they both played garbage opponents.
Holding up the rear, the Browns and 49ers have combined for 23 straight losses. Cleveland surely is keeping a close eye on college quarterbacks, but there is no sure-fire franchise guy like Cam Newton, Andrew Luck or even Jameis Winston. The 49ers are stuck with Colin Kaepernick, who is doing just enough to keep himself on the roster but doesn’t look like he’ll ever be as good as he was when Jim Harbaugh coached the team.
1. (1 last week) Cowboys (10-1) — Nothing new here. Dallas looked great on the national stage, and the only controversy about this team is WHICH rookie is more instrumental to the team’s success. The Cowboys can clinch a playoff spot this weekend.
2. (3) Patriots (9-2) — After going weeks without forcing a turnover, the defense came up with big plays twice to help the Pats win a predictably close game against an inferior opponent. Malcolm Butler and Chris Long each stripped the ball free and stopped a Jets drive that seemed destined for points. Tom Brady played well down the stretch but clearly was hobbled by a knee injury. Rob Gronkowski’s fragility reared its head again as he was sent to the locker room early. The team would be wise to limit his snaps down the stretch, or even leave him out against the Rams.
3. (4) Raiders (9-2) — Derek Carr stole the headlines when he stayed in the game and played well after dislocating his pinkie. However, Khalil Mack could be the real star going forward as he builds a case for NFL Defensive Player of the Year. After getting just one sack in the first five games of the season, Mack has at least one in each of the last six. On Sunday, Mack strip-sacked Cam Newton, recovered the fumble and took it to the house.
4. (5) Giants (8-3) — Make it six in a row for the surging Giants as they trampled the lowly Browns. Odell Beckham Jr. was phenomenal again and looks virtually unstoppable once he gets the ball in open space. Jason Pierre-Paul had three sacks and four TFL, in addition to forcing a fumble, recovering that fumble and taking it to the house. Who needs all 10 fingers anyway?
5. (8) Chiefs (8-3) — It’s no doubt that Sunday night’s OT win over the Broncos was huge, but the Chiefs have some difficult games ahead. Denver will get its rematch in Week 16, but before that, Kansas City travels to Atlanta and then hosts the 9-2 Raiders.
6. (2) Seahawks (7-3-1) — This was your classic “bury the football” game for Seattle. An atrocious offensive performance for Russell Wilson and friends. It’s alarming that this is the third time this season the Seahawks have been held to six points or less. Even with the loss, they still hold a three-game lead in the pathetic NFC West.
7. (11) Falcons (7-4) — Sunday was more of the same from Atlanta. The best offense in the league padded its stats in a 38-19 rout of the Cardinals. The Falcons lead the league in points per game with 32.5 but still only lead the NFC South by one game.
8. (9) Lions (7-4) — Matthew Stafford should get some serious consideration for the MVP award with his fourth-quarter heroics this season. At 7-4, the Lions now are leading the NFC North and are poised to make the playoffs for the second consecutive season. It’s staggering to think that each of those seven wins involved a fourth-quarter comeback. This is a team that believes it can win each and every week, and it has one of the best and most clutch kickers in the league in Matt Prater.
9. (10) Dolphins (7-4) — A win is a win, but the Dolphins were awfully close to losing to the 1-10 49ers on Sunday. Ndamukong Suh tackled Colin Kaepernick just three yards short of the end zone as time expired, when a touchdown would have given San Francisco a chance to tie or go for the win with a two-point conversion. Luckily for the Dolphins, all wins count the same, and Miami has a pretty easy schedule down the stretch.
10. (6) Broncos (7-4) — Where was the vaunted Denver defense on Sunday night? For a team that’s usually so good at slamming the door on opponents in the final minutes, Denver had no answers for Kansas City’s offense in the final drive of regulation and the two drives in overtime.
11. (7) Redskins (6-4-1) — Despite the loss on Thanksgiving, the Redskins played well against the best team in the league and still are slotted to make the playoffs if the season ended today. Kirk Cousins has been terrific this season and could be in line for a huge contract. The final five games won’t be easy, as three of them are on the road and then they play the Giants in Week 17 at home in a game that certainly will have playoff implications.
12. (13) Ravens (6-5) — The Ravens beat the lowly Bengals on Sunday, but it was John Harbaugh’s coaching tactics in the final seconds that had everyone talking. For a guy who was complaining about the Patriots’ tactics in the 2014 AFCCG, Harbaugh apparently has heeded Tom Brady’s advice and read the rulebook.
13. (16) Steelers (6-5) — Thursday’s dominant win over the Colts showed the world that when the Steelers offense is hot, it’s scorching. Antonio Brown still is the best WR in the league. Le’Veon Bell still is ONE of the best RBs in the league. Add a veteran QB with two Super Bowl rings into the mix, and Pittsburgh is a team that no one in the AFC wants to see in the playoffs.
14. (17) Bills (6-5) — In Sunday’s win over Jacksonville, LeSean McCoy scored twice, including a 75-yard TD run, which was the longest of his career. McCoy has been spectacular this season. The Bills offense has another weapon outside the numbers, as Sammy Watkins made his first appearance since breaking a bone in his foot in the offseason. One of the big problems in Buffalo right now is the defense in the red zone. Opponents have scored touchdowns in 11 of their last 12 trips inside the 20.
15. (12) Vikings (6-5) — Things were supposed to snap back into place after Minnesota broke a four-game losing streak in Week 11 with a win over the Cardinals. Instead, the defense couldn’t make a stop against the Lions on Thanksgiving, and now the Vikings are 1-5 in their last six games. It doesn’t get any easier, as they host the 10-1 Cowboys in Week 13.
16. (19) Buccaneers (6-5) — Sunday’s 14-5 win over the Seahawks was huge for the Bucs and probably the biggest surprise of Week 12. Tampa Bay stays just one game behind the division-leading Falcons. WR Mike Evans is just the fourth player in NFL history with 1,000 yards receiving in each of his first three seasons.
17. (15) Texans (6-5) — The Broncos should be thankful that Brock Osweiler decided to leave town for a huge contract in Houston. With his three picks on Sunday, Osweiler now is tied with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Blake Bortles for the league lead with 13. Luckily for the Texans, they play in the worst division in football and likely will host a playoff game in the second week of January, possibly against the Broncos.
18. (14) Eagles (5-6) — It was a rough night for the Eagles defense, allowing the Packers to go 10-for-14 on third-down conversions. Since the Eagles are all but eliminated from the playoffs, the front office and Doug Pederson will use the next five weeks to see which players will carry over to the following season.
19. (18) Titans (6-6) — Coach Mike Mularkey is frustrated that his team can’t get above .500. The Titans have alternated wins and losses for six straight weeks, and haven’t had back-to-back wins since Weeks 5 and 6 when they beat the Dolphins and Browns. It’ll be hard to buck the trend, as Tennessee hosts the visiting Broncos, who lost a heartbreaker on Sunday night.
20. (24) Saints (5-6) — Sean Payton finally got his chance to exact revenge on Gregg Williams for his role in the Bountygate scandal. Any doubt that Payton wanted to stick it to Williams was erased when WR Willie Snead threw a 50-yard TD pass to Tim Hightower with 10 minutes left in the game, with New Orleans holding a 21-point lead.
21. (22) Packers (5-6) — Monday night’s win over the Eagles snapped a four-game losing streak that involved a lot of finger-pointing and second-guessing in Green Bay. The defense finally showed some life against the Eagles, allowing just 13 points. In those four losses, the Packers were averaging over 38 points against.
22. (25) Chargers (5-6) — Philip Rivers threw three TD passes for the 48th time in his career. Rivers’ numbers this season are on par with his career averages, and he’s had a spectacular career. A few unfortunate losses early in the season doomed San Diego’s playoff run. On the plus side of things, first-round pick Joey Bosa has been impressive and looks like he’ll be a quality player for years to come.
23. (23) Colts (5-6) — Without Andrew Luck, the Colts were stomped in front of a national audience on Thanksgiving. If Luck can stay healthy, they still stand a good chance to win the AFC South. at 5-6, they’re just a game behind the Texans, who they’ll play in Week 14. They’ve already swept the season series with the Titans.
24. (21) Cardinals (4-6-1) — The Cardinals entered the 2016 season as the trendy pick to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. With a 4-6-1 record, their chances of even making the playoffs are all but over. After back-to-back losses to the Vikings and Falcons, Bruce Arians called out his team’s veterans for not doing enough to change selfish habits.
25. (20) Panthers (4-7) — The defending NFC champions easily are the most disappointing team in the NFL this year. After watching their team win 15 games a year ago, fans in Carolina are looking toward the draft so the team can shore up its offensive line. Luke Kuechly still is in the concussion protocol and would be wise to shut it down for the rest of the season.
26. (26) Rams (4-7) — Jeff Fisher began the season talking about “7-9 bullsh*t” on HBO’s “Hard Knocks.” Now, with Los Angeles at 4-7, he’ll be lucky to get seven wins. The Rams have five more games including matchups against the Pats, Falcons and Seahawks. If that isn’t enough to get him fired, the recent controversy surrounding Eric Dickerson should be enough to push him over the edge.
27. (27) Bengals (3-7-1) — The Bengals will have to win their remaining five games to avoid their first losing season since 2010. This team is loaded with talent but simply couldn’t do anything right this year. Marvin Lewis should have been fired at the end of last season. If Mike Brown doesn’t do the right thing, he has no one to blame but himself for wasting Andy Dalton and A.J. Green’s careers.
28. (28) Jets (3-8) — Darrelle Revis was torched again for two TDs as his awful 2016 continues. Ryan Fitzpatrick played poorly enough to lose the game, but not enough to lose the job. Todd Bowles will keep Bryce Petty on the sideline and try to win a few games down the stretch, when the Jets should be vying for a top-five draft pick.
29. (30) Jaguars (2-9) — Blake Bortles had a decent day against a good defense and shockingly did not throw any picks. However, for the seventh straight game the Jacksonville defense failed to intercept a pass. The Jaguars are on pace for just four picks on the season, which would be the lowest total in the history of the franchise.
30. (29) Bears (2-9) — A win over the Titans slipped right through the fingers of the Bears wide receivers. The WR corps was responsible for a staggering EIGHT drops, which is the most by any team in the last 10 years.
31. (31) 49ers (1-10) — Colin Kaepernick is playing better but still struggling with accuracy. There is a good chance the 49ers lose 15 straight games and still don’t get the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft.
32. (32) Browns (0-12) — The pressure felt by the Browns to win a game is eclipsed only by the the pressure felt by their opponents, who fear being the only team to lose to them. Next up, the struggling Bengals.