Tuesday, November 15, 2016

NFL Week 10 Power Rankings

After the best week of football this season, the dust has finally settled on week 10 of the 2016 NFL season, and, boy, did we have a landmark week. Of the 12 games played this weekend, the four highlight matches: Broncos vs. Saints, Panthers vs. Chiefs, Cowboys vs. Steelers, and Patriots vs. Seahawks all lived up to the hype. How did Week 10's results affect our power rankings? Let's dive in.

1) Dallas Cowboys (8-1): The Cowboys have knocked the Patriots from their perch atop the power rankings for this week. And why not? The Cowboys earned a hard fought 35-30 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. Ezekial Elliot absolutely dominated the game, rushing for 114 yards, and adding 95 more yards on the receiving end. All told, Elliot scored three touchdowns on the night, including the final two scores of the day to push Dallas over the top. The Cowboys are rolling with Elliot and quarterback Dak Prescott, and it appears that nothing can stand in their way -- at least right now.

The Cowboys have a very interesting game this week against the Baltimore Ravens at home, this just days before their Thanksgiving Day clash with the Redskins. These are two big games to see if Dallas can keep the momentum train running against playoff caliber opponents.

2) Oakland Raiders (7-2): It's not often that a team can rise in the polls due to being on a bye, but with the Raiders being idle and the Patriots losing in Week 10, Oakland jumps up to number two in our rankings. The Raiders boast the NFL's 5th ranked offense both in yards per game and scoring. Their defense, however, is the achilles heal of this team. If the D can pick it up down the stretch, then the Raiders will be even tougher to beat.

3) New England Patriots (7-2): Hard to envision these guys slipping this far, and it will likely be the only time for the rest of the year. Sunday was not a good day for the Patriots. Bad turnovers and costly mistakes did them in against the Seattle Seahawks. Yet, there they were at the Seattle one-yard line with a chance to tie the game in the final minute. Unfortunately for the Pats, Tom Brady fumbled the football on third and goal, and overthrew Rob Gronkowski on fourth and goal. It has become commonplace for the Patriots to have that mid-season loss in recent years, and this was another one. Look for New England to go on a major run here and get back into the top spot in the power rankings.

4) Kansas City Chiefs (7-2): The surging Chiefs deserve the respect that comes with a top five ranking. This team has won five in a row, and if you go back to the final 10 games of last season, are a combined 17-2 in their last 19 games. And this is a team that hasn't had the services of James Houston and Jamaal Charles predominately all season.

 The best aspect of this team is their defense. Led by a stingy secondary of Jason Peters and Eric Berry, the Chiefs lead the NFL in turnover margin at +14, and are seventh in the NFL in points allowed at 18.7 points per game. It was the Chiefs defense that was the reason they came back and won on Sunday in Carolina. First Berry picks of a badly thrown Cam Newton pass and brings it back for a touchdown. Then, it is Peters who wrestles the ball away from Kelvin Benjamin and sets up the game-winning field goal.

5) Denver Broncos (7-3): Denver was this close to starring at 6-4 and an uncertain future in the crowded AFC playoff picture when Drew Brees connected on a 32-yard touchdown that tied the game at 23 with a little over a minute to go. Then the blocked extra point happened, and just like that the Broncos pulled the game out of the fire 25-23. It wasn't a perfect day for Denver, far from it. They blew a 10-0 lead and trailed 17-10, before coming back to take the lead. Trevor Siemian was inconsistent; he threw two touchdowns and was picked off twice, and sacked six times.  While they are 7-3, this is a very flawed Broncos team.

6) Seattle Seahawks (6-2-1): Sunday night's win in New England was huge for the Seahawks, mainly because Seattle's offense showed signs of getting its grove back.  The Seahawks biggest issue had been their inability to run the football, and Russell Wilson quelled those fears with an outstanding performance under center. He threw for 348 yards and moved around the pocket like the healthy Wilson we remember. Not to mention Seattle's stingy D played a huge role in upending the Pats. Next to Dallas, this is the best team in the NFC.

7) Atlanta Falcons (6-4): A very uneven day for the Falcons. All season I felt this team was walking on eggshells because of its rather weak defense. Little did I know that their offense would finally hit a wall. That is exactly what happened on Sunday in Philly. The Falcons trailed for almost the entire game, and inspite of his 135 yards receiving, Julio Jones had two big drops in key situations.

Before I move on to my last three teams in my Top 10, let me be clear, after the Falcons there is a such a drop-off in quality teams it is nearly impossible to rank a solid and complete top 10 without some trepidation. It would be easy to say the Giants are number 8 because they are 6-3; but I just don't love them to be that high on this list. So without further adieu ...

8) Washington Redskins (5-3-1): Here is why I pick the Skins. Not only do they have a win over the Giants, but just recently had a four game winning streak in October. While the Skins are definitely flawed, they are the defending NFC East champs, and have had a tendency to play well in big spots, like they did on Sunday against the suddenly sinking Vikings. So for now, the Redskins get a top 10 posting.

9) New York Giants (6-3): The Giants are a weird team. They have won games by the skin of their teeth, and at times have looked over-matched in games. Yet, they keep winning. Their defense finally stepped up to the plate on Monday night to deliver the win, with their best defensive player, Landon Collins playing a vital role. The Giants could go on a run here with games against Chicago and Cleveland on the docket.

10) Detroit Lions (5-4): Holy cow, the Lions are in the top 10! Another case where the bye week helped them move up. The Lions are in first place in the NFC North, and have some quality wins against the Vikings, Redskins and Eagles this year. Matthew Stafford is having a MVP-type of year, and they have two very intriguing games at home coming up. They will host both the Jaguars and Vikings over the next two weeks. Should they win both, can you say 7-4 Detroit Lions?

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