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Bryan Woolston/Getty Images
The NFL is a week-to-week league. Take an opponent for granted or come out flat against a team perceived as inferior, and you’ll get your rear end kicked.
Just ask the New Orleans Saints, who are scrubbing Atlanta’s footprints out of their pants after getting stunned by 17 at the Superdome by the Falcons on Sunday.
That wasn’t the only surprise in Week 10. The Kansas City Chiefs got MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes back—and lost to the Tennessee Titans. The Pittsburgh Steelers won their fourth straight game with a backup quarterback, downing the defending NFC champions. The one-win Miami Dolphins stunned the Colts in Indianapolis.
And the New York Jets won a football game—on purpose.
Not every game came with a surprise. The Green Bay Packers solidified their status as a top contender in the NFC bracket with a snowy win over the Carolina Panthers. Ditto in the AFC for the Baltimore Ravens, who pasted the hapless Bengals in Cincinnati.
The last game of the week wasn’t necessarily surprising. But it was a heart-pounding thriller between two teams that were a combined 15-2 headed in that ended in the waning seconds of overtime…
And left no undefeated teams remaining in the NFL. Crack the champagne, 1972 Dolphins.
As has been the case every week this season, Bleacher Report NFL analysts Brent Sobleski, Gary Davenport and Brad Gagnon have come together as Week 11 begins to survey the week that was and rank the NFL’s teams from the bottom to the top.
There was no shortage of shake-up this go-round.
Every NFL season, there’s the topsy-turvy week, where you just don’t know what to make of anything. Are the Chiefs overrated after losing to the Titans? Does the Saints’ loss to the lowly Falcons mean anything? Are the Dolphins… competent??? Lefkoe and Brian Westbrook look around the league at a variety games, topics, stats, and tweets, while trying to make sense of it all. Oh, and Raiders fans? We think you’re gonna like the predictions these guys make. Check it out here.
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Bryan Woolston/Getty Images
Last Week: 32
Week 10 Result: Lost vs. Baltimore 49-13
The Cincinnati Bengals stink. Really stink. Like tuna salad sandwich left in the Arizona sun for four days stink.
By virtue of Sunday’s blowout loss to the Baltimore Ravens, the Bengals remain the NFL’s only winless team—an 0-9 dumpster fire inching closer by the week to the first pick in the 2020 draft.
The Bengals are a well-rounded sort of terrible, too. In his first start as a pro, rookie quarterback Ryan Finley barely hit on more than half his passes and finished with under 200 yards. The Bengals “defense” had no answer for Lamar Jackson and the Ravens, surrendering almost six yards a carry on the ground and allowing Baltimore to convert two-thirds of its third downs.
That last number looks even worse when you realize that Baltimore only had six third downs the entire game—on an afternoon when the Ravens scored seven touchdowns.
At this point, the Bengals have a stranglehold on the bottom spot in these power rankings.
“This wasn’t supposed to happen to the Cincinnati Bengals,” Sobleski wrote. “Sure, they were clearly counted among the NFL’s worst squads before the season began. But the Dolphins were supposed to be the historically bad (and tanking) team. Instead, the Bengals sit at 0-9 and look completely uncompetitive after Sunday’s 49-13 walloping at the hands of the AFC North-leading Baltimore Ravens. The silver lining of a No. 1 overall pick and a potential franchise quarterback or Ohio State defensive end Chase Young will serve as the salve to this disastrous campaign.”
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Steven Ryan/Associated Press
Last Week: 27
Week 10 Result: Lost at New York Jets 34-27
In a season full of lows for the New York Giants, the G-Men hit a new nadir in Week 10—losing to the one-win New York Jets in a battle of rotten teams at MetLife Stadium.
Giants fans looking for a bright spot will point to a four-touchdown game from quarterback Daniel Jones. Or the 10/121/2 stat line posted by young receiver Darius Slayton.
Realists will point to three fumbles (one lost) from the turnover-prone Jones. A horrific 13-carries-for-one-yard performance from tailback Saquon Barkley. And the fact that the Giants lost to the one-win Jets.
“The only positive in Week 10 for the Giants is that it ended,” Davenport said. “A humiliating loss to the woeful Jets embodies everything that’s wrong with the team—the turnovers, the terrible play in the trenches on both sides of the ball, the porous defense…the list goes on and on. For all the talent Jones has flashed at times, the Giants remain a deeply flawed team, and that’s not going to change any time soon.”
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Bill Kostroun/Associated Press
Last Week: 31
Week 10 Result: Won vs. New York Giants 34-27
Both of the occupants of MetLife Stadium are struggling through disappointing seasons. All that was at stake for the Jets and Giants in Week 10 was some Big Apple bragging rights.
For once, the Jets have something to brag about—sort of.
Mind you, Gang Green didn’t play especially well offensively. The Jets had fewer than 300 total yards, gained just 2.6 yards per carry on the ground and went just 4-of-13 on third down.
But thanks to some opportunistic defense and a couple of turnovers, the Jets were able to post a season-high 34 points and earn their second victory of 2019.
From a big-picture perspective, the win doesn’t change much other than cost the Jets some draft position. Make no mistake—this is still a bad football team.
But the Jets were in dire need of some sort of positive development. In 2019, there’s been a win over Dallas and a whole lot of “ewwwww.”
In that respect, it was a big day for the team.
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Andrew Harnik/Associated Press
Last Week: 29
Week 10 Result: Bye Week
The Trent Williams saga has reached a conclusion—at least for 2019.
And the conclusion is just as ugly as the rest of the situation.
The Pro Bowl offensive tackle, who has steadfastly refused to play for the team after he claimed that the Washington medical staff misdiagnosed a cancerous growth on his head for years, was placed on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list—a move that will in theory allow the team to withhold the rest of Williams’ 2019 salary.
Williams told Craig Hoffman of 106.7 The Fan in Washington he isn’t looking to trash the team—he just wants to go play elsewhere.
“I wasn’t looking for blood. I was just looking for a new beginning,” he said. “To put this behind me and kinda find a new home and that’s what I wanted to do. But I think them allowing me a new start would’ve admitted guilt and I don’t think they were ready to do that. I ain’t got a reason to lie. I’m not trying to get anything. I’m not trying to get no money from them. I don’t even want what they didn’t give me. I just want to go.”
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AJ Mast/Associated Press
Last Week: 30
Week 10 Result: Won at Indianapolis 16-12
Break up the Dolphins!
A month ago, the Miami Dolphins were the laughingstock of the NFL and the No. 32 team in these power rankings. It wasn’t so much a matter of when the Dolphins might win a game as it was a matter of if they would win a game.
But back in Week 6, the Dolphins came within a point of downing the Washington Redskins. Two weeks after that, the Dolphins jumped out to a 14-0 lead on the Pittsburgh Steelers. And in each of the last two weeks, the Dolphins have now rolled off wins over the Jets and now the banged-up Colts.
The Dolphins are still a bad team—maybe the most talent-deficient in football. But as Gagnon wrote, head coach Brian Flores has done one heck of a job.
“Miami has now led in the second half in four consecutive games, and before that it fell just a point short against the Redskins,” he said. “The Dolphins are 2-7, but they could easily be 5-4, which would essentially make them a playoff contender in the weak AFC. Brian Flores deserves a ton of credit—and maybe even Coach of the Year consideration—because this is by far the worst roster in the NFL.”
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Jason Behnken/Associated Press
Last Week: 22
Week 10 Result: Lost at Tampa Bay 30-27
If last week’s hard-fought loss to the undefeated San Francisco 49ers was a step forward for a young Arizona Cardinals team, then Sunday’s sloppy setback in Tampa represented two steps back.
The Cardinals made just about every kind of mistake against the Buccaneers that will cost an NFL team a win. There were turnovers. Eleven penalties. Curious play-calls from first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury. And terrible clock management from Kingsbury and rookie quarterback Kyler Murray on the last drive of the game.
Kingsbury said that the team’s performance in Week 10 left much to be desired while speaking with reporters after the game.
“That’s what separates the really good teams from average teams,” Kingsbury said, via Darren Urban of the team’s website. “We had a bunch of those mistakes that make you an average team.”
The Cardinals now face a brutal schedule stretch over the next three games against teams with winning records, starting with a trip to Santa Clara for a rematch with the Niners.
If Week 10 was any indication, the Cardinals could be waiting a while for win No. 4.
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Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images
Last Week: 28
Week 10 Result: Won at New Orleans 26-9
For most of the 2019 season, the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints have been barreling in opposite directions. The Saints have looked like arguably the best team in the league. The Falcons have been a one-win tomato can with a terrible defense.
So with both teams coming out of the bye week, it was obvious that the Falcons were going to dominate the Saints in New Orleans.
Without question the most surprising happening of Week 10 was the play of Atlanta’s defense against the Saints. Facing one of the league’s most potent offenses, the Falcons clamped down, allowing just 310 yards of total offense and holding the Saints out of the end zone. An Atlanta pass rush that had seven sacks over the team’s first eight games took down Drew Brees six times.
It’s still been a miserable season but for the Falcons, but even the darkest of campaigns has the occasional bright spot.
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Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images
Last Week: 18
Week 10 Result: Lost at Chicago 20-13
The Detroit Lions are done.
Granted, the Lions were probably done before falling in Chicago in Week 10. Thanks in large part to a bottom-five defense, the Lions had lost four of five entering Sunday’s action after starting the season 2-0-1.
But facing a reeling Bears team, there was hope of ending the skid—until starting quarterback Matthew Stafford was scratched prior to the game with a back injury.
Per Kyle Meinke of MLive, Stafford’s streak of 136 consecutive starts was snapped due to fractured bones in his back. The 31-year-old has been playing through the injury for some time, but he wasn’t improving and the decision was made to sit him.
The question now becomes what the Lions will do regarding their quarterback moving forward. In a loaded NFC, there’s essentially no chance that Detroit is going to make the playoffs. Given that, it makes little sense to risk running Stafford out there until he’s fully healed.
And that may not be until 2020.
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Dustin Bradford/Getty Images
Last Week: 24
Week 10 Result: Bye Week
The Denver Broncos have been looking for a starting quarterback ever since Peyton Manning rode off into the sunset after the 2015 season. And whether it’s been with youngsters like Paxton Lynch or veterans like Joe Flacco, John Elway had had little success filling that hole.
Despite leading the Broncos to a Week 9 win over the Cleveland Browns, fourth-year pro Brandon Allen isn’t the long-term answer under center. But rookie Drew Lock could be another story.
However, per 104.3 The Fan in Denver, ESPN’s Adam Schefter doesn’t believe the Broncos are in a hurry to rush the second-round pick into action. “I don’t think they’re in any rush at all to go turn to Drew Lock this season,” Schefter said. “I know that people want to see what the second-round draft pick can do, [but] I don’t get a sense that they’re clamoring to go put in Drew Lock at this point in time. So as long as Brandon Allen can play like that, I think he’ll keep playing.”
Lock is eligible to come off injured reserve and reportedly could practice this week when the Broncos return from the bye, but when the Broncos travel to face the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, it will likely be Allen under center.
The future will just have to wait.
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Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Last Week: 26
Week 10 Result: Won vs. Buffalo 19-16
There hasn’t been much to cheer about in Cleveland in 2019. After an offseason filled with hype and hope in equal measure, the Browns won just two games over the first half of the season and were riding a four-game losing streak into Sunday’s home tilt with the Buffalo Bills.
Maybe—just maybe—Cleveland’s comeback win over the Bills is the beginning of a second-half rebound. Or at least a return to some level of respectability.
The Browns didn’t exactly pile up style points in the win—prior to the game-deciding drive, Cleveland’s red-zone offense was a comedy of errors. But unlike last week’s loss in Denver, the Browns found a way to pull the contest out in the end.
The Browns still have no shortage of issues on both sides of the ball. But for the first time in a long while, the team has positive momentum, which it will hope to build on in Thursday’s night meeting with the rival Steelers in Cleveland.
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Chris O’Meara/Associated Press
Last Week: 25
Week 10 Result: Won vs. Arizona 30-27
Sunday’s meeting between the Arizona Cardinals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers was a reunion for Tampa Bay’s Bruce Arians, who coached the Redbirds from 2013 to 2017.
It was also a reunion of a home win for the Buccaneers—something the team hadn’t accomplished since Week 13 of last year.
It wasn’t an especially impressive win—Jameis Winston took the NFL lead in interceptions (again) with two more picks against the Cardinals, and the Bucs allowed 417 total yards of offense.
But Tampa racked up 457 yards of offense of its own, and the Cardinals made even more mistakes than the Bucs did.
However, while Tampa got the W, Davenport thinks that one door for the team is all but shut—for good.
“If Tampa has any sense,” he said, “the next seven games will be the end of the line for Jameis Winston as the team’s starting quarterback. Winston is up to 18 turnovers through nine games this season after two more interceptions this week, and it’s just never going to get better. You’re not winning consistently in the NFL with a quarterback who gives the ball away twice a game every game. It’s time to move on.”
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Perry Knotts/Associated Press
Last Week: 20
Week 10 Result: Bye Week
It was fun while it lasted, but Minshew mania is no more.
Maybe it was the less-than-stellar performance in a Week 9 loss to the Houston Texans in London. Maybe it was the $50 million in guarantees the Jaguars have invested in Nick Foles. But after eight starts in place of the injured veteran, rookie Gardner Minshew II got the hook as the Jags’ starting quarterback over the bye week.
After handing Foles a four-year, $88 million contract in the offseason, Jacksonville got less than one game from Foles before he fractured his collarbone. But defensive end Calais Campbell expects big things from Foles the rest of the way.
“Love him. Love him,” Campbell said, per James Johnson of Jaguars Wire. “Ultimate leader, such a good guy. I really, truly believe this too: If he didn’t get hurt, he’d be competing for MVP of the league right now. I know that is a big statement, but he is, you know, an incredible [player].”
At 4-5 and staring up at three teams in the AFC South, it will likely take some MVP-level heroics from Foles to get the Jaguars back in the postseason conversation.
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D. Ross Cameron/Associated Press
Last Week: 19
Week 10 Result: Lost at Oakland 26-24
After the Los Angeles Chargers blasted a one-loss Green Bay Packers team in Week 9, it appeared that the Bolts may be about to go on another patented Chargers late-season tear.
However, we forgot one very important and inescapable fact.
Chargers gotta Charger.
Los Angeles dominated most of the first half statistically and out-gained Oakland, but the Chargers still found a way to lose. The offensive line opened as many holes for Oakland pass-rushers as it did for Melvin Gordon III. Philip Rivers threw three interceptions that counted and two more that were erased by penalties. And every time the Chargers took the lead, the L.A. defense proceeded to let the Raiders drive right down the field.
“We should have known that it was the win over Green Bay and not losses to Tennessee and Denver that was the fluke,” Davenport said. “The Chargers have weapons on both sides of the ball, but they also have glaring flaws—and the latter outweighs the former. This team isn’t beating Kansas City in Mexico City, which means hitting the bye week at 4-7. The Chargers were done after the loss to the Titans dropped them to 2-5. They’re going to be extra-done by that off week.”
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David Banks/Getty Images
Last Week: 21
Week 10 Result: Won vs. Detroit 20-13
Entering Week 10, the Chicago Bears desperately needed a win, and they got it against a short-handed Lions team.
Embattled Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky had one of his better games of the season, tossing three touchdown passes and posting a passer rating of 131.0. But even that effort came with something of an asterisk, given that Trubisky threw for just 173 yards.
This game didn’t do much to fix the issues that have plagued Chicago this season—the Bears had all of 226 yards of total offense against one of the NFL’s most porous defenses. But after dropping four in a row, the Bears will take a win any way they can get it.
“Let’s not overreact to a relatively close home victory over a team with a bad defense and a backup quarterback,” Gagnon said. “Chicago still had just 13 first downs and converted just two third downs in an uninspiring performance, and the 2018 Bears defense would have punished that limping Lions offense. This team just doesn’t have it this year.”
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Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
Last Week: 23
Week 10 Result: Won vs. Kansas City 35-32
The Tennessee Titans have worked their way back into the conversation for a wild-card spot in the AFC.
Not that long ago, that would have been a laughable notion. In Week 6, the Titans were shut out in Denver by a so-so Broncos team. At 2-4, the Titans were headed nowhere fast.
However, since making the change from Marcus Mariota to Ryan Tannehill at quarterback, the Titans have ripped off three wins in four games to get back to .500. And in a blah AFC, that has gotten the team back in the postseason mix.
Sunday’s last-second win over the Chiefs was Tennessee’s biggest victory of the season. Patrick Mahomes had over twice as many passing yards as Tannehill, and the Chiefs out-gained the Titans by over 150 yards. But thanks to a ground game that gashed the Chiefs for 225 yards and some timely throws from Tannehill, Tennessee stunned Kansas City.
“Maybe everyone wrote off Tannehill too soon,” Sobleski said. “Since taking over as the Titans’ starting quarterback, the one-time failed first-round pick has completed 70 percent of his passes with an 8.5 yards per attempt average and eight-to-four touchdown-to-interception ratio. Compare those numbers to Marcus Mariota, who completed only 59.1 percent of his passes with a 7.1 yards-per-attempt average and seven-to-two touchdown-to-interception ratio in six games. Tennessee has won three of its last four games due in part to more efficient quarterback play.”
Still, the team faces an uphill climb over its last six games. Only one of Tennessee’s remaining opponents has a losing record, and the last three games are brutal—two meetings with the AFC South-leading Texans sandwiched around a Week 16 tilt with the New Orleans Saints.
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Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Last Week: 11
Week 10 Result: Lost at Cleveland 19-16
The shine is coming off the Buffalo Bills.
After starting the 2019 season 5-1, the Bills have no lost two out of three after falling to the Browns in Cleveland. The reason for that mini-slump isn’t hard to pinpoint.
While the Bills remain a stout defensive team, the offense is sputtering.
Despite facing a Browns run defense that entered Week 10 allowing the third-most yards per game in the league, the Bills managed just 84 rushing yards Sunday—and a third of those came courtesy of quarterback Josh Allen. Allen didn’t do the Bills many favors throwing the ball, hitting on just 22 of 41 throws and missing open receivers on multiple occasions.
“Given their record, schedule and the fact that this isn’t the best year for the AFC, the Bills are probably going to make the playoffs in 2019,” Davenport said. “But Sunday’s loss showed why I can’t take Buffalo seriously as a contender. The Bills just don’t have the offense to hang with the Patriots in a playoff game. Or the Chiefs. Or the Texans. One and done, anyone?”
Gagnon is not sure they’ll even get that far.
“Josh Allen was again useless on deep throws and useless under pressure as a bad Bills offense cost Buffalo the game in Cleveland,” he said. “That unit just isn’t good enough, and the defense doesn’t make enough plays. With a tough schedule coming, Buffalo will be lucky to finish with a winning record despite its 6-2 start.”
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Darron Cummings/Associated Press
Last Week: 12
Week 10 Result: Lost vs. Miami 16-12
Given how he played in a Week 9 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, it wasn’t unreasonable to assume that veteran backup quarterback Brian Hoyer could lead the Indianapolis Colts to a victory over the one-win Miami Dolphins.
It was, however, incorrect.
Hoyer was miserable in a 16-12 loss, failing to complete even half his passes, throwing three interceptions and posting a passer rating south of 40. The setback moves the Houston Texans into first place in the AFC South and puts the Colts on the outside looking in of the playoff race.
“It’s fair to wonder if the Colts haven’t suffered one too many injuries at this point,” Davenport said. “The team did an excellent job of weathering Andrew Luck‘s retirement, but with Jacoby Brissett and T.Y. Hilton both watching Sunday’s game, the Colts barely put up 300 yards of offense and turned it over three times. Next week’s home tilt with a Jacksonville team that’s had an extra week to prepare has become a make-or-break contest in Indianapolis.”
“Everything is falling apart quickly for the Colts,” Sobleski added. “They deserved a ton of credit for how they began the season despite adverse conditions. But Brissett’s balky knee likely cost Indianapolis two games. The team is now on a two-game losing streak after its loss to the Dolphins. Life gets much harder in the coming weeks with three straight division contests—which will likely decide Indianapolis’ season.”
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Mike Roemer/Associated Press
Last Week: 15
Week 10 Result: Lost 24-16 at Green Bay
The Carolina Panthers aren’t without strengths. The Panthers lead the NFL with 36 sacks, and after another game with over 140 total yards, young tailback Christian McCaffrey remains in the NFL MVP conversation.
However, there’s a reason the Panthers have dropped two out of three to NFC heavyweights to fall to 5-4 on the year and outside the NFC playoff race.
The team has weaknesses too.
Quarterback Kyle Allen has flashed potential, throwing for a career-high 307 yards in the loss to the Packers. But Allen also turned it over twice in Green Bay and has six turnovers over the last three weeks.
Also, while the Panthers are great rushing the passer, stopping the run is another story. The Packers piled up 163 rushing yards Sunday, and the Panthers are now allowing the fourth-most rushing yards per game in the NFL.
If Carolina doesn’t get better at stuffing the run, it’s hard to imagine this team getting into the postseason.
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D. Ross Cameron/Associated Press
Last Week: 16
Week 10 Result: Won vs. Los Angeles Chargers 26-24
Not a lot was expected from the Oakland Raiders in 2019—at least from the Bleacher Report NFL analysts. The Raiders entered the season in the bottom five of these power rankings.
But they are proving us wrong and have a chance to make the playoffs.
That’s no sure bet, of course—the Raiders are still flawed, having one of the softer pass defenses in the league. But after coming from behind in the fourth quarter to win in thrilling fashion Thursday night, they have peeled off four wins in six games after a 1-2 start.
Quarterback Derek Carr has recaptured his form from a 2016 season in which he won 12 games and led Oakland to a playoff berth before breaking his ankle late in the year. A Raiders pass rush that logged just 13 sacks all of last season got to Philip Rivers five times in Week 9 and forced three interceptions.
In an underwhelming season for the AFC, the Raiders are in the thick of the chase for a wild-card spot and just one back in the loss column of the West-leading Chiefs.
And with one of the easiest schedules in the league the rest of the way, the Raiders are well-positioned to make a run at the playoffs.
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Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
Last Week: 17
Week 10 Result: Won vs. Los Angeles Rams 17-12
Not that long ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers were a 1-4 mess. But fast forward a month, and the Steelers are 5-4 and would be the No. 6 seed in the AFC playoffs if the season ended today.
After struggling in September, the Pittsburgh defense is playing as well as any in the NFL—largely because of the play of Minkah Fitzpatrick. The safety intercepted his fifth pass since joining the Steelers on Sunday and returned a Jared Goff fumble for a touchdown—the second game in a row in which the second-year pro found the end zone.
It’s not just Fitzpatrick and the defense—quarterback Mason Rudolph is making smart decisions with the ball and avoiding mistakes. He’s now up to 11 touchdown passes against four interceptions for the season, and he effectively carried the offense in Week 10 with the run game stuck in neutral.
Pittsburgh has made a believer (at least to an extent) of Gagnon ahead of Thursday’s trip to Cleveland.
“I still don’t know if I trust Mason Rudolph and the offense,” he said, “but in the AFC, the Steelers might be dominant enough on defense to make the playoffs. They now have 24 takeaways in their last seven games, which is more than 19 NFL teams had all of last season. That’s one of the best three defenses in the league, and it gets Pittsburgh into my top 12 following a fourth straight win.”
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Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
Last Week: 10
Week 10 Result: Lost at Pittsburgh 17-12
The defending NFC champions are in trouble.
After starting the season 3-0, the Los Angeles Rams have gone 2-4 over their last six contests after falling Sunday in Pittsburgh. And the primary cause for that backslide isn’t hard to pinpoint.
An offense that was next to unstoppable in 2018 can’t get out of its own way after failing to score a touchdown against the Steelers. Quarterback Jared Goff was just 22-of-41 passing with three turnovers and a passer rating that barely cracked 50. Wide receiver Cooper Kupp was targeted just four times and had zero catches. The Rams rushing attack managed just 88 yards and 3.8 yards per carry.
At 5-4, any chance the Rams had of winning the NFC West for a second consecutive season is all but gone. Now the team has to worry about just making the playoffs at all—as things stand, the Rams are on the outside looking in.
And with four of L.A.’s next six games against teams with winning records (including a battle with the red-hot Ravens and a rematch with a 49ers team that spanked the Rams in Los Angeles in Week 6), the Rams are suddenly fresh out of margin for error.
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Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images
Last Week: 14
Week 10 Result: Lost vs. Minnesota 28-24
The NFC East just got very interesting.
The Dallas Cowboys continued their roller-coaster ride of a season Sunday night against the Minnesota Vikings. For every up in Big D this year, there’s been a down.
On a night when quarterback Dak Prescott was outstanding, passing for just shy of 400 yards and three scores, the Vikings put the clamps on tailback Ezekiel Elliott—22 touches for just 63 yards.
On a night when the Cowboys played Kirk Cousins and the Vikings passing game well, the Dallas defense had no answer for running back Dalvin Cook—33 touches for 183 yards and a score.
The Cowboys are still technically in first place in the NFC East thanks to a head-to-head win over the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 7. But Dallas also faces a much more difficult schedule the rest of the way than Philly—five of the Cowboys’ next six games come against clubs that either made the postseason 2018 or have a winning record in 2019.
The Cowboys’ playoff hopes are still very much alive. But it’s not going to be easy.
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Matt Rourke/Associated Press
Last Week: 13
Week 10 Result: Bye Week
Will the real Philadelphia Eagles please stand up?
When last we saw the Eagles in action, Philly was rattling off an impressive win over the Chicago Bears that wasn’t as close as the final score would indicate (22-14). In that game, the Eagles allowed just 164 total yards and 10 first downs.
The Eagles looked the part of a playoff contender. The week before, Philly looked that much more impressive in dismantling the Bills in Buffalo.
The problem is that in the game before that, Philadelphia got shelled in Dallas, surrendering over 400 yards of total offense and committing four turnovers in a 37-10 loss.
Whether it’s been in the passing game on offense or in the secondary on defense, the Eagles have lacked consistency in 2019. One week they look like the best team in the NFC East. The next they look like paper tigers.
With home dates coming up against the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks after the bye, the Eagles better find some consistency quickly.
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Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Last Week: 9
Week 10 Result: Won at Dallas 28-24
As statement wins go, the Minnesota Vikings may have had the biggest of Week 10. Thanks to a huge game from young tailback Davin Cook and an outstanding performance from Minnesota’s run defense, the Vikings defeated the Cowboys in Dallas and solidified their status as one of the best teams in the NFC.
“The Vikings quietly went about their business and built an impressive 7-3 record,” Sobleski wrote. “Their standing is even more impressive when you consider they’ve lost throw three games by an average of six points. They’re in every game and winning most of them because Dalvin Cook emerged as the NFL’s leading rusher and the other side of the ball ranks top five in scoring defense. If Kirk Cousins can play at a consistently high level, Minnesota will work its way into the Super Bowl conversation.”
The win gave the Vikings their fifth victory in the last six weeks and a clean sweep of the four teams in the NFC East. But as well as the Vikings have been playing of late, Minnesota can’t let up.
Provided the Vikings get past Denver at home next week, Minny will hit the bye at 8-3. But it will also hit the off week in second place in the NFC North regardless of what the Green Bay Packers do in Week 11.
Given how much better the Vikings have been at home (or in domes away from it) as opposed to outside, an NFC North title vs. a wild-card spot could be the difference between a deep playoff run and a quick exit. Minnesota has to keep the pedal to the floor ahead of a rematch with the Packers two days before Christmas at U.S. Bank Stadium.
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Ian Walton/Associated Press
Last Week: 8
Week 10 Result: Bye Week
After throwing for 2,432 yards and 18 touchdowns with a passer rating of 107.1 while leading the Texans to a 6-3 record and first place in the AFC South, Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson has inserted himself into the thick of the MVP conversation in 2019.
Having DeAndre Hopkins to throw to certainly doesn’t hurt Watson’s chances for success, but per Avery Duncan of Texans Wire, Hopkins won’t be helping Watson by functioning as a campaign manager.
“I think Deshaun can make the case for himself from his play. I can’t,” said Hopkins. “I can get up here and say a thousand words but if you watch him play and his play speaks for himself and what he can do. Not just run the football, but throwing the football, getting out of the pocket and helping his team win.”
Watson is having a great year, and the Texans appear headed toward a fourth playoff trip in five seasons.
But all the individual accolades and regular-season success won’t matter one bit unless Houston can do something it hasn’t been able to in recent years—make a run once in the postseason tournament.
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Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
Last Week: 5
Week 10 Result: Lost at Tennessee 35-32
Patrick Mahomes can’t do it all himself.
Playing in his first game since dislocating his kneecap against the Denver Broncos, Kansas City’s MVP quarterback had himself a day—446 passing yards and three touchdowns. As a team, the Chiefs piled up 530 yards of total offense and scored 32 points.
And the Chiefs lost—because the defense continues to be a huge area of concern.
The Chiefs were abused by Derrick Henry and the Titans ground game Sunday, surrendering a whopping 225 yards and almost nine yards a carry. Even then, Mahomes had the Chiefs in position to win the game if the defense could just get a stop.
They couldn’t, allowing Ryan Tannehill to take the Titans 61 yards in less than a minute for the game-winning score.
Getting Mahomes back was supposed to be a springboard for the Chiefs—an opportunity to get back to the business of winning the AFC West and making a run at Super Bowl LIV.
Instead, the Chiefs are sitting at 6-4 with the Oakland Raiders just half a game behind them ahead of next week’s trip to Mexico City to face the Los Angeles Chargers.
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Mike Roemer/Associated Press
Last Week: 7
Week 10 Result: Won 24-16 vs. Carolina
After a Week 9 face-plant in Los Angeles, the Green Bay Packers were a team in need of a bounce-back win—a victory that would reinforce the idea that the Packers are a legitimate contender in the NFC.
They got that win—although much like most of Green Bay’s victories this season, it came in rather unexpected fashion.
Aaron Rodgers had another so-so game statistically for the Pack—just 233 passing yards and no touchdowns. But as has been the case so many times this year, the defense and ground game carried the day. The former notched three sacks and forced a pair of turnovers. The latter generated 163 yards and averaged six yards a carry.
These new Packers may be all the more dangerous for it. There’s little doubt that if the situation requires, Rodgers is capable of standing on his head and throwing for 400 yards. We’ve seen it happen innumerable times in the past.
But these Packers can run the ball. These Packers can rush the passer. These Packers don’t need Rodgers to have a monster game to beat a good Panthers team in the snow.
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Ben Margot/Associated Press
Last Week: 6
Week 10 Result: Won at San Francisco 27-24 (OT)
The final contest of Week 10, a back-and-forth affair that had a little bit of everything, may well go down as the best game of the entire season.
Like defensive touchdowns? Both teams had one.
A ridiculous play just before the half in which San Francisco safety Jaquiski Tartt essentially stole the ball from Seahawks wideout DK Metcalf at the goal line? Got you covered.
A rookie kicker just signed off the street making a huge field goal to send the game to overtime only to miss a potential game-winner? Yep.
It also featured a rare gaffe from Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson—followed by redemption.
After throwing a red-zone interception on the first series of overtime, Wilson got the ball back with about a minute and a half left. He did what great players do when afforded one more opportunity: drive a stake through the Niners’ undefeated season with an 18-yard scramble that set up kicker Jason Myers to win the game.
This huge victory wasn’t just about Wilson, though. Jadeveon Clowney and the Seattle front seven played easily their best game of the season. We knew Wilson was great, but we hadn’t seen the defense play at that level.
If it can do that consistently, the Seahawks can beat anyone.
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Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Last Week: 2
Week 10 Result: Lost vs. Atlanta 26-9
Generally speaking, NFL teams only get one bye week a season. But the New Orleans Saints apparently decided they could use a little more rest…
Because the team barely bothered to show up Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.
There wasn’t a more bizarre result in Week 10 than the one-loss Saints getting rolled at home coming out of the bye week by a one-win Falcons team.
It’s not just that the Saints lost at home to a division rival. It’s that New Orleans was dominated in just about every aspect of the game by a Falcons team that’s spent most of this season getting drilled.
Before this game, Atlanta had seven sacks for the season. The Falcons sacked Drew Brees six times. A Falcons defense that has allowed over 28 points per game this season held the Saints out of the end zone.
The result left our analysts more than a bit befuddled.
“What just happened?! The Saints are clearly one of the NFL’s best teams,” Sobleski said. “Yet, somehow, they found a way to not only lose to the struggling Falcons, but do so in embarrassing fashion. The Falcons, who managed a league-low seven sacks through eight games, got to Drew Brees six times. The Falcons dominated the fourth quarter and came away with their most impressive win over the last two seasons. That’s OK. Every team experiences a hiccup throughout a long season. If this goes from a one-week aberration to a two-game losing streak, then it becomes a problem for the Saints.”
“It may be that by January this face-plant will be just a bump in the road to Miami,” Davenport added. “Perhaps the game will serve as a wake-up call. But it was more than a little alarming to see a Saints team we thought was good get rolled by a Falcons team we know is bad.”
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Nick Wass/Associated Press
Last Week: 3
Week 10 Result: Bye Week
The sky is falling in Beantown.
After the Pats were rolled by the Baltimore Ravens, there was no shortage of hand-wringing about the defending champs. The defense got fat against inferior opponents early in the year. The offensive line isn’t good. The wide receivers can’t stretch the field.
The thing is, we’ve rather seen this movie before. And it ends the same every time.
It seems like every year, the Pats suffer a loss that brings out the Doubting Thomases. After talking up the team for weeks, we can’t wait to tear them down.
But the Patriots will be fine—because they are the Patriots.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t legitimate areas of concern for the Pats. There are. But there isn’t a team in the league better at addressing and/or papering over problem areas than New England. The Patriots are a veteran team that weathers the ups and downs of an NFL season better than any club in the league.
The Patriots will win the AFC East. They may well still earn the top seed in the AFC bracket. And we wouldn’t bet against them as the conference’s Super Bowl representative.
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Frank Victores/Associated Press
Last Week: 4
Week 10 Result: Won at Cincinnati 49-13
Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens are rolling.
Granted, the winless Cincinnati Bengals have a tendency to make every opponent look good. But the Ravens could have been flat against an inferior opponent after last week’s big win over the New England Patriots.
Instead, the Ravens came out at full speed and dropped a piano on the league’s worst team. Jackson shined again in the win, throwing for 223 yards and three scores and pitching in another 65 yards and a score on seven carries.
There isn’t a team in the AFC (or all of the NFL, for that matter) playing better offensive football right now, and Baltimore’s recent dominance has Davenport wondering how many teams would like a do-over on the first round of last year’s draft.
“There were four quarterbacks selected before Lamar Jackson in last year’s draft, and multiple teams reportedly wanted Jackson to work out as a wide receiver at last year’s combine,” he said. “Baltimore has profited greatly from all that wrong. The Ravens built their offensive scheme around their young signal-caller, and now Jackson’s an MVP candidate and the Ravens are Super Bowl contenders.”
“Lamar Jackson has emerged as undoubtedly the toughest player in the NFL to defend, which could be hugely problematic for the rest of the league,” Gagnon added. “The AFC is wide-open, Jackson and the Ravens have already gotten the best of New England, and the defense has been making plays. That unit has improved immensely since September, and when you put it all together, Baltimore is a prime Super Bowl contender.”
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Tony Avelar/Associated Press
Last Week: 1
Week 10 Result: Lost vs. Seattle 27-24 (OT)
And then there were none.
There are a couple of caveats that come with the first loss of the season by the San Francisco 49ers—caveats that help explain why they’re still our No. 1 team despite the defeat.
For starters, San Francisco played this game without its top two weapons in the passing game. Tight end George Kittle watched from a suite, while wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders left early with a rib injury.
Also, it’s not like the 49ers were trounced. Against a talented and battle-tested Seattle team led by an MVP front-runner in Russell Wilson, San Francisco was in it all the way. Were kicker Robbie Gould healthy, it’s possible the game would have ended differently. Instead, rookie free-agent addition Chase McLaughlin missed a potential game-winner in overtime.
With all that said, the 49ers lost the game, and one of our analysts saw something that gave him enough pause to drop San Francisco two spots.
“Long story short, Jimmy Garoppolo didn’t play well in this game,” Davenport said. “And it wasn’t only because of injured receivers. Garoppolo sailed several passes and could easily have had more turnovers than the three with which he was charged. A completion percentage just over 50 percent, three giveaways and a passer rating of 66.2 isn’t going to get the job done against Russell Wilson. Or Drew Brees. Or Aaron Rodgers.”