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Power Rankings: Vikings hit top five – NFL.com


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Power Rankings: Vikings hit top five – NFL.com

I’ve received plenty of “feedback” on Twitter (@DanHanzus) that the Patriots — on the basis of their incredibly soft schedule — do not deserve to be No. 1 on the Power Rankings, a spot they’ve held since the preseason. To which I say, yes, New England’s slate of opponents has included some of the worst…

Power Rankings: Vikings hit top five – NFL.com

I’ve received plenty of “feedback” on Twitter (@DanHanzus) that the Patriots — on the basis of their incredibly soft schedule — do not deserve to be No. 1 on the Power Rankings, a spot they’ve held since the preseason. To which I say, yes, New England’s slate of opponents has included some of the worst teams in football. But if you really want to see the Belichicks drop in this exercise, someone is going to have to take them out.

So far, the NFL is 0-for-7. The Pats stay where they are. Let’s get to the rankings.

NOTE: The previous rankings referenced in the lineup below are from the Week 7 Power Rankings.

Previous rank:
No. 1

Same old story. The
Patriots have feasted on the
Jets for years, and
Monday night was no different. ESPN mics caught
Jets quarterback
Sam Darnold admitting he was
“seeing ghosts” in the pocket. We could have guessed that without the wire — Darnold threw four interceptions and lost a fumble in a game as one-sided as we’ll see all year.
Tom Brady and the
Patriots offense set the tone on the game’s first possession: a 16-play, 78-yard touchdown drive that sucked the energy out of MetLife Stadium. While Darnold was under constant assault, Brady had all day in the pocket and was rarely harassed by a weak
Jets pass rush. One more note on that dominant Pats defense: New England has 18 interceptions, the second-highest total through seven games for a team
in the past 30 years. Bill Belichick is running out a historically great secondary.

Previous rank:
No. 3

Sean Payton is chasing only one trophy this season, and it will be the one handed out in Miami on the first Sunday in February. But he’s already got the NFL Coach of the Year award in the bag for what he’s done with the 6-1
Saints. New Orleans has been without
Drew Brees for most of the season, and on Sunday, superstar running back
Alvin Kamara sat with ankle and knee ailments. Didn’t matter in
a blowout of the Bears at Soldier Field. At some point, attrition is supposed to take its toll, but somehow, the
Saints keep getting stronger. It’s a testament to Payton’s ability as both a coach and team-builder. And things are only getting better: Brees (out since Week 2 with a thumb injury)
is returning to practice this week and could even be back in action on Sunday
against the Cardinals. This is your
Super Bowl favorite in the NFC.

Previous rank:
No. 2

It will be one of the most indelible images of this
49ers season:
Nick Bosa, clinching
another win for the
49ers with a sack, then kicking off a celebration with
a FedExField Slip ‘N Slide. The fast and loose
49ers are 6-0 for the first time since 1990 and have now held opponents scoreless over their last 18 possessions. The driving rain and wind gusts made this an impossible setup for
Jimmy Garoppolo and the Niners offense to make a significant impact, so the defense handled most of the business. The biggest play on Sunday was made by linebacker
Kwon Alexander, who ended Washington’s last real scoring threat by
stripping Adrian Peterson of the football for a turnover.
Robbie Gould was the hero on offense, kicking three short field goals to account for all the scoring. This was a game where no style points were necessary.

Previous rank:
No. 4

In a lot of ways, it was
the perfect Sunday at Lambeau Field — the type of day
Packers fans will look back wistfully upon when this is all over.
Aaron Rodgers, under a cloudless blue sky, playing quarterback at the height of his powers. His final stats tell the story of position mastery: 25 of 31, 429 yards, five touchdowns, zero interceptions … and a rushing score, for good measure. It was the most flawless game we’ve seen from a quarterback all season, and there’s something satisfying as a football fan that it came from Rodgers, who struggled enough in the past two seasons
to make you wonder if Peak Rodgers was a thing of the past. His play this season has debunked that theory, and as we saw
in a jubilant Packers locker room after the game, the whole team is flush with confidence knowing No. 12 is out front.

Previous rank:
No. 8

The
Kirk Cousins Revitalization Project rages on. The quarterback — identified as The Problem in Minnesota three weeks ago — has played as well as any passer in the league during the
Vikings‘ three-game winning streak, continuing with
Sunday’s conquest in Detroit. Cousins absolutely shredded the
Lions in play-action, continuing a trend that began (perhaps not coincidentally) at the start of this surge. Over the past three weeks, Cousins has a 157.2 rating on play-action, completing 32 of 42 passes for 592 yards and seven touchdowns without an interception, according to Pro Football Focus. Throw in another huge day from running back
Dalvin Cook (25 carries, 142 rushing yards, two rushing TDs), and we’re beginning to see the full potential of this
Vikings offense. It’s an attack with a ceiling as high as that of any team in the NFC.

Previous rank:
No. 5

How strange was it to be watching a
Seahawks game at CenturyLink Field in which
Russell Wilson wasn’t the most exciting quarterback on the field? Such is the power of
Lamar Jackson, the young
Ravens star who inserted himself into the MVP discussion that Wilson has headlined following
a 30-16 Baltimore win. Playing a
Ravens defense that has struggled mightily for much of the season, Wilson completed less than half of his pass attempts (20 of 41) and threw his first interception of the season,
a pick-six by former Rams cornerback Marcus Peters. Wilson has been a rock of elite consistency all season for the
Seahawks, finishing Seattle’s first six games with passer ratings of 134.4, 131.0, 102.6, 114.3, 151.8 and 117.6. On Sunday against the
Ravens? 65.2. It was an off day for Wilson, which usually means an off day for the team he leads.

Previous rank:
No. 11

Now that’s more like it. The
Cowboys came out angry and sharp against the
Eagles, jumping on their NFC East rivals early and coasting to a
37-10 win at Jerrah World. The victory was effective on three levels: 1) It snapped Dallas’ three-game losing streak; 2) it moved the
Cowboys back into sole possession of first place; and 3) it sent the
Eagles into a minor panic and potential existential crisis. This was the
Cowboys‘ most lopsided win over Philadelphia since a 34-0 shutout on Nov. 2, 1998. This is all excellent news for head coach Jason Garrett, who was at the center of a particularly heated week of national discussion about his worth and job security. NBC’s Cris Collinsworth put it well as Garrett jogged to midfield to meet Doug Pederson for the customary postgame handshake: “The pressure relief valve has been hit.”

Previous rank:
No. 6

Consistency continues to elude the
Texans.
On Sunday, that cost them first place in the AFC South. With the defense struggling to stop
Jacoby Brissett (who threw a career-high four touchdown passes) and the running game unable to get it going,
Deshaun Watson was again asked to don the Superman cape. Watson is one of the few players in football qualified to accommodate such an ask, but he wasn’t as sharp as he needed to be against the
Colts. Watson threw two interceptions in the fourth quarter, including
the game-icing pick on a slightly high throw to
Keke Coutee, who bobbled the ball into the hands of linebacker
Darius Leonard to seal the loss. The
Texans are probably a better team than the
Colts, but when they turn the ball over in crucial situations and play without discipline (10 penalties for the second straight week), they can look pedestrian. And now they’re looking up in their division.

Previous rank:
No. 17

It’s time to come up with a proper nickname for
Lamar Jackson, who is doing things on a football field that no one else can — and it’s happening on a weekly basis. Lamargic? The LaMarvelous One? Let’s workshop it.
On Sunday against the Seahawks, Jackson took a snap on fourth-and-2 from the Seattle 8-yard line, danced to his right, then shot through an opening like an evolutionary Michael Vick for
the crucial go-ahead touchdown. Moments earlier,
Ravens coach John Harbaugh called his field-goal unit back to the sideline and opened the door for his very special young quarterback to do something very special. “Do you want to go for that?”
Harbaugh asked his QB. “Hell yeah, coach, let’s go for it!” Jackson quickly replied. “Let’s go.” Jackson has transformed into a star in his second pro season, and the
Ravens are one of the most dangerous teams in the AFC because of it.

Previous rank:
No. 10

The
Bills have worked hard this season to convince the outside world they are legit contenders in the AFC. That could have all been undone in 3.5 hours, had Buffalo not snapped out of it
against the Dolphins on Sunday at New Era Field. Miami was set up with first-and-goal at the Buffalo 2-yard line with the chance to extend its lead to 12 in the third quarter. A disaster scenario was unfolding … and then the light flipped on for Sean McDermott’s defense.
Jordan Phillips tackled
Ryan Fitzpatrick before he could hand the ball off for a loss of 10, then
Tre’Davious White jumped a route for a game-changing interception.
Josh Allen followed the turnover with a 98-yard touchdown drive to put the home team ahead for good. The
Bills remain a difficult team to gauge, but
a soft schedule should allow them to stack up some more wins and put themselves in excellent position for the playoffs.

Previous rank:
No. 12

The 2019
Panthers feature two major storylines: 1) Their resurgence following an 0-2 start behind MVP favorite
Christian McCaffrey, and 2)
Cam Newton‘s continued absence as he recovers from a lingering foot injury. It is on team brass and coach Ron Rivera to figure out how much 1) has to do with 2). And you get the feeling, based on what’s coming out of Charlotte, that the
Panthers
aren’t in any rush to change the current formula that includes undefeated quarterback
Kyle Allen. Newton is making progress, but Rivera has stressed Carolina won’t rush him back into the starting lineup and risk another setback. The big question: Are the
Panthers being rightly cautious about their former MVP … or are they using the injury as a convenient reason to keep Allen behind center? Stay tuned.

Previous rank:
No. 16

The
Rams needed that. Playing a
Falcons team that looks like it’s ready to call it a season before Halloween, Los Angeles won the battle on both sides of the ball in
a 37-10 victory. Trade acquisition
Jalen Ramsey made a successful debut as the new centerpiece of Wade Phillips’ secondary, with the cornerback shadowing
Julio Jones for much of the afternoon and keeping the all-world wideout in check.
Aaron Donald
knocked Matt Ryan out of the game with a sack and forced fumble, while
Dante Fowler had his best game of the year, tallying three sacks and a forced fumble. Ryan was sacked five times overall as the
Rams held the
Falcons‘ offense (which has been solid this season) to just 224 total yards. The three-game losing streak is history; now is the time for Sean McVay’s team to get back on track. Up next:
the winless Bengals.

Previous rank:
No. 9

Sunday’s loss started with
a blocked punt, and that was just the beginning of the misfortune for the
Bears.
Mitchell Trubisky and the Chicago offense
were getting booed off the field by the home crowd midway through the second quarter, and the
Saints — playing without
Drew Brees or
Alvin Kamara — built an insurmountable three-score lead before the fourth quarter began. How bad were the
Bears prior to some garbage-time production? The
Saints picked up four first downs on their final touchdown drive late in the third quarter — as many first downs as the
Bears offense had gained in the entire game to that point. Chicago’s offense has no downfield element to it, and even worse, Trubisky is clearly pressing as the pressure mounts on his shoulders. He’s taken a big step back in his third season … how long can Matt Nagy stand by the former No. 2 overall pick?

Previous rank:
No. 15

Foot, meet mouth. Coach Doug Pederson
told the world last week that his
Eagles would beat the
Cowboys in Week 7. “We’re gonna win that football game, and when we do, we’re in first place in the NFC East.” Pederson surely wishes he had that moment back after his
Eagles pulled a total no-show at Jerrah World, in
a 37-10 defeat that was every bit as non-competitive as the final score indicated. The
Eagles are 3-4 and looking like one of the NFL’s biggest disappointments as we near the season’s midpoint. No one played well on Sunday night:
Carson Wentz was inaccurate, his skill players were sloppy with the ball, the defense was totally overwhelmed (again) and
Nelson Agholor couldn’t be bothered
to lay out. If this isn’t rock bottom for the
Eagles, we have a Halloween horror story unfolding in Philadelphia.

Previous rank:
No. 13

We’ve reached the stage where it’s not good enough to merely hang with quality opponents. As Herm Edwards once taught us, “You play to win the game,” and the
Lions haven’t done that this month. The biggest culprit is a sieve-like defense that has allowed 450 yards in each of their last three losses. Their run defense has been suspect all year (Detroit has allowed at least 100 yards on the ground in six straight games), and now the entire unit is beginning to melt. This was not supposed to happen under Matt Patricia, who won a title running Bill Belichick’s defense in New England. It wasn’t all bad
against the Vikings.
Matthew Stafford threw four touchdown passes, all four of them going to
Marvin Jones. The craziest stat of Week 7? That wasn’t even Jones’ first four-TD game; he did it with the
Bengals in 2013.

Previous rank:
No. 18

The final score tells the story of a blowout, but it wasn’t nearly that grim for the
Raiders. This wasn’t a loss to hang on a gross talent disparity, poor coaching or a quarterback who couldn’t make plays. Instead, the failure goes back to an inability to execute in the most important area of the field. On three different occasions, Oakland marched deep into Green Bay territory, only to be turned away without points.
Derek Carr lost a fumble and possession on
a dreaded pylon reach,
Josh Jacobs was turned away at the goal line twice on third
and fourth down, and Carr
threw an end-zone interception, though the game was close to decided by that point. While
Aaron Rodgers and the
Packers cashed in on every opportunity, the
Raiders stumbled. It was a frustrating loss, but not one that should leave fans of the Silver & Black without hope.

Previous rank:
No. 19

The
Steelers‘ pulse grew stronger after an impressive
Week 6 road win over the
Chargers, but the victory came at a big cost. Defensive end
Stephon Tuitt exited the game with a torn pectoral muscle, an injury that
ends his season and will require surgery. Tuitt was tied for second on the team in sacks with 3.5 and was a major headache for the opposition on a weekly basis. It’s been one of those years for the
Steelers, who lost
Ben Roethlisberger to a season-ending elbow injury in Week 2. The team’s depth is being tested on both sides of the ball, but the silver lining for this star-crossed squad is an AFC North division that remains up for grabs. The
Ravens have been hot and cold, the
Browns have been one of the NFL’s biggest busts and the
Bengals are the dregs of the NFL. Could 9-7 win the division? Could Pittsburgh get there?

Previous rank:
No. 21

Turns out the
Jaguars don’t need
Jalen Ramsey to deliver a dominant defensive effort. Jacksonville created four turnovers against the
Bengals, including three
Andy Dalton interceptions over the course of five pass attempts en route to
a 27-17 win in Cincinnati. No team forced more turnovers than the Jags during their run to the AFC Championship Game in the 2017 season, but takeaways have become a scarcity in the seasons since. When linebacker
Myles Jack intercepted Dalton and short-circuited a potential game-tying
Bengals touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, it marked just the fourth turnover that Jacksonville had forced all season. The defense turned it up after that, and that will have to continue if the Jags hope to stay in the AFC playoff race.

Previous rank:
No. 22

It can’t happen. It. Just. Can’t. Happen. The
Chargers
have to find a way to execute in the final minute and win that game in Nashville.
The crushing loss to the Titans will be put at the feet of
Melvin Gordon, who had another poor game and
lost the fumble that doomed Los Angeles, but disaster in goal-to-go situations has become a theme for the
Chargers that’s reaching historic proportions. This,
from ESPN, tells the story: The
Chargers have turned the ball over five times in goal-to-go situations this season, which ties them for the most goal-to-go turnovers by a team in the past 15 seasons. It’s WEEK 7, people! This feels like a territory of failure and frustration that is unique to this organization. Hopefully this loss, in conference, against a fellow playoff hopeful, doesn’t come back to haunt the
Chargers. Just don’t be surprised when it does.

Previous rank:
No. 20

Sometimes, a prime-time showcase is the worst thing for a team. All the
Broncos‘ shortcomings were laid bare
against the Chiefs on
Thursday Night Football, a game that had FOX analyst Troy Aikman declaring late in the contest that Denver has “about as bad an offense as I’ve seen.” Yikes.
Joe Flacco has clearly reached the Respected Veteran Backup stage of his career, but Vic Fangio has no choice but to keep him on the field, with no other feasible option behind the 34-year-old. Flacco was sacked eight times,
lost a fumble that became a touchdown and generally displayed the ball security and spatial awareness you’d expect from a QB 15 years his junior. Flacco was done no favors by a turnstile offensive line in need of a major overhaul. With the trade deadline looming, the
Broncos could look like a very different team in the near future.

Previous rank:
No. 23

The biggest news story out of the
Browns‘ bye week was the
idiot lunatic who sucker-punched
Myles Garrett. That bizarre incident was a fitting encapsulation of the
Browns‘ 2019 season to date — a team that came into Week 1 with serious swagger is currently on its butt after getting popped in the jaw. Luckily, Cleveland does not have any superpower to contend with in the AFC North and can still get off the mat … it just has to happen quickly. They’ll get
the undefeated Patriots on Sunday before
the schedule lightens up considerably. The pressure will be on
Baker Mayfield to turn his season around. The second-year passer must find a way to make better decisions and bring consistency to the offense. The
Browns know they need to fix their offensive line in the offseason — it’s on the former No. 1 overall pick to make do with what they’ve got now.

Previous rank:
No. 24

Sometimes, the Football Gods smile down upon you.
On Sunday, the
Titans looked finished, until the
Chargers found a way to
Charger themselves out of a go-ahead touchdown in the final seconds. Tennessee must take that good fortune and build upon it. At 3-4, it’s still been a very disappointing season in Nashville, but the AFC South and AFC wild-card picture both remain wide open. The
Titans can find a way back to January football, and
Ryan Tannehill gave fans reason to hope against the Bolts. Tannehill sparked the offense, showing more decisiveness and accuracy than the benched
Marcus Mariota. The former
Dolphins first-round pick completed 23 of his 29 pass attempts for 312 yards and two touchdowns, providing the kind of quarterback production that has been foreign to Tennessee during Mariota’s run. Tannehill brought rhythm to the
Titans‘ offense — let’s see if he can keep it.

Previous rank:
No. 27

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Chase Edmonds. The backup running back played his college ball at Fordham University in The Bronx.
On Sunday, he went from small school to big star of the
Cardinals‘ 27-21 win over the
Giants at MetLife Stadium. Edmonds,
subbing for a banged-up David Johnson, set career highs in carries (27), rushing yards (126) and touchdowns (three) on a day when the
Cardinals needed someone to step up alongside
Kyler Murray. Edmonds was the star on offense; on defense, there were stars everywhere. Arizona sacked rookie quarterback
Daniel Jones eight times, with
Chandler Jones accounting for half that total.
Patrick Peterson also contributed, finishing with a sack and a forced fumble in his first game back from suspension. The
Cardinals have won three straight against opponents with a combined three wins on the season. Things tighten up considerably in the next two weeks,
with the Saints
and Niners looming.

Previous rank:
No. 26

The
Giants and their rookie quarterback are going in the wrong direction.
Daniel Jones was sacked eight times, threw an ugly interception and lost two fumbles in
a 27-21 loss to the
Cardinals at the Meadowlands. Big Blue suddenly feels a long way off from the positive vibes that emanated from the franchise following back-to-back wins over the Bucs and
Redskins in Jones’ first two starts. Jones’ inability to play clean football has been one of the factors behind New York’s three-game losing streak, but growing pains were always going to be part of the gig once
Eli Manning was sent to the bench. Speaking of Manning,
Giants coach Pat Shurmur shot down any speculation that the two-time
Super Bowl MVP could return to action in place of the struggling Jones, which is obviously the right decision. This is a developmental year for the
Giants. It would make no sense to sit the developing quarterback.

Previous rank:
No. 29

This Bucs season seems to be heading into an extended period of football purgatory. Week 6’s
ugly loss in London felt like the possible end of
something for
Jameis Winston, who turned the ball over six times in an important division game. Winston is starting to look less and less like Tampa Bay’s future, but there remains a majority of the season to go. Bruce Arians
recently said that Winston has a “habit of trying to be Superman,” a trait that should have been worked out of his game years ago. Winston will be behind center when the Bucs return to action Sunday
against the Titans, but it’s fair to wonder how much rope the former No. 1 overall pick has at this point. If Winston continues to struggle with ball protection and consistency, you can imagine Arians will want his own guy to stand with in Year 2.

Previous rank:
No. 25

The
Jets were
embarrassed on national television by the
Patriots — where have we heard that before? The story of this shutout loss was second-year quarterback
Sam Darnold, who suffered through the worst game of his life. The five-turnover meltdown came just days after Darnold was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his excellent performance in
a win over the Cowboys. Darnold, wired for sound (another
Jets gaffe), muttered to himself in the second quarter that he was
“seeing ghosts” in the pocket, a sound bite that became another punchline at the team’s expense on social media. Darnold played terribly, but he — and the two other quarterbacks who have started games for the
Jets this season — continue to be undermined by an offensive line that is both talent deficient and seemingly unprepared each time out. The
Jets have been exposed on a near-weekly basis — a terrible look for Adam Gase and his entire staff.

Previous rank:
No. 30

Andy Dalton needs a fresh start. For years, Dalton was a steady option at quarterback, a man who straddled the line between true franchise passer and hold-the-fort journeyman. But as the
Bengals‘ talent level has dissipated around him, Dalton has crumbled. Sunday was a low point: Dalton threw three interceptions in
a 27-17 loss to the
Jaguars, with all three picks coming over a span of five passes in the fourth quarter. The
Bengals actually entered the final quarter with a one-point lead, but Dalton’s struggles in and around the red zone (an ongoing theme this season) crushed any chance of securing victory No. 1 for Zac Taylor. Given the right surroundings, you could see Dalton (still just 31 years old) having productive seasons in the NFL. But he is no longer the answer in Cincinnati, where he was drafted in the second round in 2011, and where a complete rebuild is necessary. It is time for an amicable divorce.

Previous rank:
No. 31

The
Redskins got
shut out at home on Sunday, but they didn’t look totally hopeless. Four times, Washington worked its way into
49ers territory, but once there, the team had no earthly idea how to turn those opportunities into points. Not helping matters were some truly dreadful weather conditions in the D.C. area that reduced FedExField’s turf to a slippery mud pit. After the game, interim coach Bill Callahan said
he still had faith in quarterback
Case Keenum and that the veteran quarterback will continue to start despite Washington’s 1-6 record. None of this feels like a good sign for first-round pick
Dwayne Haskins, who is getting the storage-in-mothballs treatment in an era when that simply doesn’t happen anymore. Haskins struggled in limited playing time last month — is it possible the
Redskins are already having drafter’s remorse?

Previous rank:
No. 32

The
Dolphins are going to win a game eventually. Brian Flores’ team has gotten incrementally better as the season has progressed, and Miami was just a couple of plays away from a shocking road win
against the Bills on Sunday. The turning point in Buffalo was
Ryan Fitzpatrick’s interception deep in Bills territory with five minutes to play in the third quarter. It’s the type of throw that has burned Fitzpatrick too often in his career — staring down a receiver, then trying to force the ball into a window that exceeds the capacity of his limited right arm. Still, there’s no debate that the
Dolphins are a more capable team with Fitzmagic behind center.
His 11-yard touchdown run to keep the
Dolphins alive in the fourth quarter was all guts and guile — it’s why his teammates love him wherever he goes. The Fish have graduated to being competitive.

Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @DanHanzus.


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