Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers would be the Most Valuable Player for 2014 if the National Football League regular season ended on November 18th, and voting really wouldn't be all that close. That is but one of several takeaways from Week 11 of the current campaign. Rodgers and the Packers are just about unbeatable when playing at home, and they could be on the verge of a special run if they end up winning the division and hosting multiple playoff games come January.
Elsewhere around the league, two Ohio sides, who were seemingly headed in different directions, changed paths after just a few hours of football. The Cleveland Browns were thoroughly embarrassed at home by a Houston Texans side that wouldn't make the postseason as of today, while the Cincinnati Bengals did well to put an ugly loss to the Browns out of memories by going to New Orleans and beating Drew Brees and the Saints.
As has been noted by just about ever sports website out there that is looking to get easy web hits, the Manning brothers had rough outings on Sunday. Peyton Manning was outplayed by Shaun Hill, -- no, seriously, he was -- while younger brother Eli Manning tossed five, count 'em, five interceptions in a loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Peyton and the Denver Broncos will be just fine moving forward, which is something you can't say about Eli and the New York Giants; more on Big Blue later.
Last but certainly not least for Week 12 NFL power rankings are the New England Patriots. All-time great and future member of the Hall of Fame Tom Brady had a clear message for Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts during what was a one-sided Sunday Night Football contest: Your time may come down the road, but my reign isn't up yet. Brady and the Patriots have a championship feel to them, and they deserve to be kings of all NFL power rankings for another week.
30 Oakland Raiders (0-10)
With six weeks left on the schedule, the question has to be asked: can the 2014 Raiders do the opposite of running the table and go an entire season without winning a single game? Those of you hoping that Oakland makes history should be worried about the team's upcoming contest. The Raiders will be at home for a Thursday Night Football showdown with division rivals the Kansas City Chiefs, a side that could be in for a letdown following a victory over the Seattle Seahawks.
29 Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9)
The Jaguars were off this past week, although I'm fairly confident that no casual football fan missed watching them. A young offense led by rookie quarterback Blake Bortles has flashed some promise, but a week off alone isn't fixing Jacksonville. Life doesn't get any easier for the club in Week 12, as the Jags will have to travel to Indianapolis to play against a Colts team that was humiliated in front of a national television audience. Good luck, Jacksonville. You'll need it.
30. Tennessee Titans (2-8)
Zach Mettenberger is a rookie quarterback. He is going to be responsible for his share of mistakes and for throws that he will almost immediately want to have back. Mettenberger also showed on Monday Night Football that he has the arm to make it in the NFL if he is surrounded by the right talent. Those rumors about Tennessee possibly seeking out a free agent quarterback next March will be quieted more and more each week if Mettenberger can show improvement over the next month and a half.
28 Washington Redskins (3-7)
The wheels are falling off of the Washington bus. Robert Griffin III is calling out teammates in postgame pressers, fans are legitimately chanting the name of Colt McCoy during games, and word is that RG3 has lost at least some of those inside of what is no longer and may have never been his locker room. I would not yet be ready to give up on Griffin considering his talent and physical skills, but the Redskins may have to think otherwise this coming winter.
27 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-8)
A win against a lousy Washington team is still a win, right Tampa Bay fans? Wide receiver Mike Evans is the real deal, to the point that he could be the consensus Offensive Rookie of the Year by the time all is said and done. Think about this: The Buccaneers could have pulled off a deal similar to that put together by the Browns last May and acquired Evans AND college teammate quarterback Johnny Manziel. How much better would Tampa Bay be right now today had that happened?
26 New York Jets (2-8)
The Jets had about the best off week possible, considering the sorry state of the franchise. Their rivals, the New York Giants, lost again at home, and the Giants were a comedy-fest of errors in that defeat. Gang Green can, for a few more days, continue to fly high after that win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. There are many problems with this roster and this coaching staff, but the Jets can focus on some positive things before taking on the Bills in Buffalo.
25 New York Giants (3-7)
It was a fun ride while it lasted, eh Giants fans? Head coach Tom Coughlin brought a lot of good times to the organization, including two Super Bowl titles. He doesn't have the horses on the roster, and there are several signs that indicate that some in the organization are no longer buying into the veteran coach. A reset is coming for the big brother of New York pro football, and it is one that could be painful for a fan base that is not used to watching losing teams.
24 Carolina Panthers (3-7-1)
Carolina learned that showing up to a NFL game two and a half hours late is costly. Critics of quarterback Cam Newton need to realize a few things before throwing the young player under the bus. Newton doesn't have much help on his offensive line, in a rushing attack that is non-existent, and the Panthers are lacking elite talent at wide receiver. Carolina's record is awful, yes, but Newton isn't the main problem with the club.
23 Minnesota Vikings (4-6)
The NFL is an offense-first league. That is just the way it is in 2014. Minnesota does not have an offense capable of getting the job done on a weekly basis, and that was put on display in the team's loss to the Chicago Bears. Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater could be the answer, but the guy can only do so much on his own. The front office of the Vikes needs to get Bridgewater some true weapons during the upcoming offseason (along with getting AP back).
22 Chicago Bears (4-6)
Anybody laughing at quarterback Jay Cutler and the Bears now? Cutler is probably Jeff George 2.0, a QB with a rocket arm who doesn't always make the smartest of decisions. When Cutler is feeling it, though, he is right up there among the best in the business. His inconsistencies cost Chicago, and that should not, and cannot, be forgotten. One can't help but wonder if Cutler wouldn't be an elite quarterback if he was able to play behind a better offensive line.
21 New Orleans Saints (4-6)
The Saints are, on one hand, still fine in that New Orleans is tied for first place in the division standings. Gone are the days of the Saints being one of the top home teams in the NFL, though, and that has to be worrisome for those within the club. New Orleans managed a single touchdown against a Cincinnati defense that has been awful over the past month. That should be unacceptable for Drew Brees and company.
20 Buffalo Bills (5-5)
The Bills are still in the playoff hunt, but that Thursday Night Football loss to the Miami Dolphins could prove to be the beginning of the end of Buffalo's season. It's hard for a team to win games at any level of football when its offense doesn't locate the end zone, and a trio of field goals wont get the job done when facing a division opponent on the road. That upcoming home game versus the New York Jets is must-win for the Bills.
19 Atlanta Falcons (4-6)
Ladies and gentlemen, your 4-6 Atlanta Falcons would win the NFC South title if the regular season ended today. Sports really are funny at times. The Falcons have new life thanks to the other teams in the division being terrible, and Atlanta has a winnable home game against the reeling Cleveland Browns on the schedule for this coming weekend. Don't look now, but these Falcons are somehow on the verge of being playoff bound.
18 St. Louis Rams (4-6)
Give me the Rams against any top opponent in the NFL this fall. St. Louis has thus far knocked off the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers and now the Denver Broncos in 2014. Just think what the Rams could have accomplished over the past few months if the team had a great quarterback. Shaun Hill is good enough to get you there, but he won't be lighting it up on a weekly basis. St. Louis will soon have to decide on what to do with the injured Sam Bradford.
17 Cleveland Browns (6-4)
Here is a memo for all of you enamored with the hometown story of Brian Hoyer, to the point that you believe the Browns should go all-in on him and not on rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel: Among all of the quarterbacks in the NFL who were a first-choice QB in Week 1 of the season, none have a lower completion percentage this season than Hoyer. Not Geno Smith. Not Mike Glennon. Not Andy Dalton. It's Hoyer, who threw 30 incomplete passes during a loss to the Houston Texans.
16 Houston Texans (5-5)
Turn down for Watt, Houston fans? Superstar J.J. Watt had a banner day in Cleveland. He made an incredible catch for a touchdown. He abused the offensive line of the Browns. Watt jumped onto the football for a fumble recovery that changed the flow of momentum in the game. Some have criticized Houston for overpaying to keep Watt under contract for several years, but he was worth every penny this past Sunday. Watt is the best defensive player in the game.
15 San Diego Chargers (6-4)
No NFL team gives back wins, but one would be in denial in saying that the Chargers played well on Sunday. San Diego looked flat when facing the winless Oakland Raiders coming off of a Bye week, and the fact of the matter is that the Chargers have been far from super over the past month. San Diego needs to find a spark and soon, because the St. Louis Rams have shown that they show up to play against good teams. The Chargers host St. Louis this coming Sunday.
14 Miami Dolphins (6-4)
No reasonable person is looking at the Dolphins and seeing a team capable of overtaking the New England Patriots atop the AFC East division standings. Miami is definitely in contention for a Wild Card spot, though, and the Dolphins are, to their credit, only trailing the Patriots by two games in the division. Is there anybody out there still wanting to sit quarterback Ryan Tannehill in favor of a different candidate? Anybody? Didn't think so.
13 San Francisco 49ers (6-4)
San Francisco practically attempted to give the game to the New York Giants, but the hosts ultimately were not interested in accepting the gift. The pass rush of the Niners got to Eli Manning early and often, causing the two-time Super Bowl quarterback to make some curious and horrendous throws. You cannot spell "win ugly" without w-i-n, and San Francisco happily returned west with a victory and with a record that has the club in the playoff picture.
12 Seattle Seahawks (6-4)
Repeating as Super Bowl champions is close to impossible in the modern NFL. Those who thought back in September that Seattle would run the table seemingly forgot that fact. The Seahawks were out-toughed and outdone at Kansas City over the weekend, and Seattle is nothing better than a side potentially capable of earning a Wild Card playoff berth. This team has the goods to make a January run if it gets into the postseason tournament. That is a big "if" as of the middle of November.
11 Indianapolis Colts (6-4)
Losses to good teams happen, but it is how Indianapolis was downed by the New England Patriots that causes them to fall this far in NFL power rankings. The Patriots humbled the Colts on Sunday Night Football, outplaying the hosts in every aspect of the contest. Andrew Luck is a franchise quarterback any general manager in the league would love to have, but this Colts team remains behind the likes of the Patriots and the Denver Broncos.
11. Baltimore Ravens (6-4)
Baltimore is one of four AFC North teams that is in control of its postseason fate. These Ravens have former Super Bowl champions on the roster, a coach that has led a team to the promised land, and a quarterback who has shown up multiple times when under the spotlight that comes with big games. Those sleeping on the Ravens could find themselves surprised by what occurs from now through the end of December and the regular season.
10 Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4)
What was that you said about those ugly Pittsburgh losses to the New York Jets and the Cleveland Browns? I'm sorry. I missed it. I was too busy focusing on the fact that the Steelers are the only team in the AFC North that has seven victories as of November 18th. They play to the strengths and the weaknesses of their competition, yes, but that alone is not a reason to doubt that Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers can put together playoff run.
9 Philadelphia Eagles (7-3)
The Eagles ran into an absolute buzzsaw in Green Bay. Philadelphia never had a chance at Lambeau Field, but that is no reason to bury the E-A-G-L-E-S. The Packers would have beaten any opponent the way they played against the Eagles. These days happen every regular season. Do not let ESPN or anybody sell you on a lie that Mark Sanchez somehow cost Philadelphia a win. Nobody, not Sanchez or Nick Foles or Tom Brady, would have gotten the job done against Green Bay.
8 Cincinnati Bengals (6-3-1)
What a difference 10 days can make. Following that forgettable performance against the Cleveland Browns, Andy Dalton was an overpaid and overrated quarterback, and he and the Bengals were set to finish last in the division standings. Cincinnati silenced critics for at least a week by going to New Orleans and dispatching of the Saints in impressive fashion. The Bengals have, on paper, the goods to go to Houston and defeat the Texans. Let's see if they can do what Cleveland could not.
7 Dallas Cowboys (7-3)
The New York Giants lost again. The Washington Redskins continue to be a disaster. Dallas is now tied with the Philadelphia Eagles in the division standings after Philadelphia was punched in the mouth by the Green Bay Packers. That's a pretty solid off week for America's Team. It is now time to show you are for real, Dallas, by going to East Rutherford and defeating the Giants at MetLife Stadium on Sunday Night Football.
6 Denver Broncos (7-3)
What the heck was that, Denver? Perhaps those on the roster of the Broncos were reading their own headlines, or maybe they were focused on the fact that they were heavy favorites to take care of the St. Louis Rams with ease. The hope, moving past this loss, will be that the defeat was a necessary slap in the face for Peyton Manning and his teammates. You have to show up every week of the season, Denver, regardless of the opposing side.
5 Detroit Lions (7-3)
Do not at all assume that a loss to the Arizona Cardinals is proof that a Detroit collapse is inevitable. The Cards are the best team in all of the NFC, and Arizona holds serve at home as well as any team in the league. Detroit won't have any time to lick the wounds occurred by losing on the road. The Lions now have to head east to play against the Patriots at New England. Talk about a brutal stretch of games on the schedule.
4 Kansas City Chiefs (7-3)
Ignore what happened in 2013. These Chiefs are much better off than they were a season ago, and those who would say otherwise are living in the past and not watching how well Kansas City is playing. Alex Smith is not an elite quarterback. He isn't Peyton Manning or Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers. Those questioning the staying power of the Chiefs need to get over the fact that the Kansas City quarterback isn't "flashy" enough to make SportsCenter highlights. Smith is more than good enough for this team at the moment.
3 Green Bay Packers (7-3)
There is good, there is great, there is elite, and then there is the level Aaron Rodgers is at right now. Rodgers is a create-a-quarterback straight out of a video game this fall, the best at the position and arguably the top player in professional football in 2014. There isn't any other player in the NFL I would take over Rodgers if creating a real life football roster. Don't R-E-L-A-X, Green Bay fans. Instead, enjoy what you're getting this season, and start dreaming of January football.
2 Arizona Cardinals (9-1)
I've said it before in NFL power rankings and in other pieces, and I will do so again here: Do not give up on the Cardinals because Drew Stanton will be the team's starting quarterback through the end of the season. Stanton is a solid fit in the system utilized by head coach Bruce Arians, and the signal-caller has the full confidence of the man in charge of the roster. Arizona doesn't need a top-tier quarterback to win big games. Ask the Detroit Lions if you don't believe that to be true.
1 New England Patriots (8-2)
Of course Jonas Gray struck for four touchdown runs as New England blew the Colts out in Indianapolis on Sunday Night Football. Who didn't see that coming? Kidding aside, not even the 9-1 Cardinals deserve to be ahead of the Patriots in NFL power rankings at this stage of the campaign. Tom Brady and his offense have turned the clock back a decade, so much so that it is difficult to even imagine New England losing to any team in the league right now.
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