NFL Power Rankings for Week 12 (Nov. 20th, 2013)

peyton-manning-chiefsLast Sunday night marked the year’s most anticipated game as the Denver Broncos hosted the Kansas City Chiefs. The latter was trying to keep their perfect record alive while Denver wanted to assert their dominance as the league’s best team. Peyton Manning had a pretty solid day after racking up 323 yards and a touchdown, and his line held off KC’s vaunted defensive line the entire game. This proved to be the difference as the Broncos were in command of the contest, coasting to a 27-17 win. You can see the flip-flop this created in our Week 12 power rankings below.

1. Denver Broncos (9-1); beat Kansas City 27-17, moves up one spot – Denver may not have come close to their league-leading 41.2 PPG, but remember that they were facing a Chiefs defense which holds opponents to 12.8 PPG. Demaryius Thomas burnt the KC secondary for five catches and 121 receiving yards.

2. Kansas City (9-1); lost to Denver 27-17, drops one spot – The Chiefs don’t have to wait long for revenge because they face the Broncos in two weeks at Arrowhead. Alex Smith definitely kept pace with Manning after throwing for 230 yards and two TD’s, plus adding 52 rushing yards. However, Jamaal Charles (16CAR, 78RYDS) seems like he’s a little slower at this point in the season.

3. Seattle Seahawks (10-1); beat Minnesota 41-20, retains same ranking – This is about what everybody expected. Percy Harvin looks ready to contribute now after returning a kickoff 56 yards, setting up a Russell Wilson touchdown pass.

4. New Orleans Saints (7-3); beat San Francisco 23-20, retains same ranking – It was a hard-fought victory, but the Saints were able to down the Niners thanks to three fourth-quarter field goals by Garrett Hartley. The Saints defense continues to be vastly improved, as evidenced by how they held the tough San Francisco running game to 81 yards on 22 total carries.

5. Indianapolis Colts (7-3); beat Tennessee 30-27, moves up two spots – The Colts andrew-luckare now 8-0 coming off a loss under coach Chuck Pagano. It didn’t look good in the beginning, though, as the Titans went up 14-0 early on. However, Indy used three rushing touchdowns from Donald Brown (2) and Andrew Luck (1) to make a comeback.

6. New England Patriots (7-3); lost to Carolina 24-20, drops one spot – A controversial no-call marred the end of this game. Given that New England was on the road against a red-hot team, we can’t fault them too bad for losing this one.

7. San Francisco 49ers (6-4); lost to New Orleans 23-20, drops one spot – The same road-loss rule applies to San Francisco because it’s nearly impossible to win in the Superdome, no matter how good you are. However, it’s worth mentioning that the Niners offense looked a little anemic.

8. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4); beat Cleveland 41-20, moves up one spot – The Bengals virtually assured themselves of winning the AFC North with this victory. Their defense/special teams stepped up big-time in light of a terrible start by Andy Dalton as they scored on a blocked punt and a fumble. The 31 points in the second quarter set a Cincy franchise record.

9. Carolina Panthers (7-3); beat New England 24-20, moves up one spot – Cam cam-newtonNewton is really starting to look like he did his rookie year – except this time he has a team behind him! The third-year QB is now a legitimate MVP candidate, while the Carolina defense has never looked better.

10. Arizona Cardinals (6-4); beat Jacksonville 27-14, moves up one spot – How do you win with 14 yards on 24 carries? Well for the Cardinals, it was a combination of good defense and 419 passing yards from Carson Palmer. The run game is a huge question mark moving forward, but Arizona keeps winning, so whatever…

11. Detroit Lions (6-4); lost to Pittsburgh 37-27, drops three spots – Detroit missed a chance to take command of the NFC North after blowing a second-half lead. Give credit to Pittsburgh, though, as they rebounded from a terrible second quarter and shut Detroit down the rest of the way.

12. Chicago Bears (6-4); beat Baltimore 23-20, moves up one spot – Many people, including ourselves, thought that Chicago was done when Jay Cutler went down with an injury a few games ago. But Josh McCown has stepped in and done admirably while keeping his team in playoff contention.

13. Dallas Cowboys (5-5); bye week, drops one spot – Dallas comes out of the bye week, suddenly finding themselves trailing the Eagles in the NFC East. Even their opponent this week, the New York Giants, is back in the thick of things thanks to a four-game win streak.

14. Philadelphia Eagles (6-5); beat Washington 24-16, moves up five spots – My how quickly things change in the NFL. Once ripped for an awful stretch of offense, Philadelphia has been revitalized with Nick Foles under center. Sure Foles may not have the perfect speed to run Chip Kelly’s read option; however, it doesn’t matter when he keeps throwing touchdown after touchdown.

15. Green Bay Packers (5-5); lost to New York Giants 27-13, drops one spot – Scott Tolzien is certainly no Aaron Rodgers….maybe not even Seneca Wallace. That said, will the Packers be too far out of the NFC North race by the time Rodgers returns from his broken collarbone?

16. New York Jets (5-5); lost to Buffalo 37-14, drops one spot – Geno Smith played geno-smith-billsabsolutely terrible as the Bills’ pass rush forced him into three interceptions and a fumble. With the Jets in a muddled AFC Wild Card race, you wonder how long Geno will continue to start since New York needs wins now.

17. Miami Dolphins (5-5); beat San Diego 20-16, moves up four spots – Despite losing Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito to the bullying scandal, the Dolphins are still neck and neck with New York for the last AFC Wild Card spot. Miami relied on a bend-but-don’t-break defense to pull out this victory.

18. San Diego Chargers (4-6); lost to Miami 20-16, drops two spots – This will be a season of big regrets for the Chargers since they could’ve have easily been in the playoffs if a couple of plays here or there had gone their way. Last Sunday’s game against the Dolphins was a great indication of this as they missed several opportunities to win.

19. Baltimore Ravens (4-6); lost to Chicago 23-20 (OT), drops one spot – Every time Baltimore looks like they’ve got some momentum going, it gets deflated the next week. Of course, it was hard for them to get momentum of any kind going in Chicago, where high winds and monsoon-like rains delayed the game.

20. Cleveland Browns (4-6); lost to Cincinnati 41-20, drops three spots – Cleveland jumped out to a 13-0 lead after Joe Haden’s 29-yard interception TD. However, the bottom completely fell out in the second quarter as they allowed a 31-0 Bengals run.

21. New York Giants (4-6); beat Green Bay 27-13, moves up one spot – The NFL is about taking advantage of opportunities, and this is exactly what New York has done during their four-game winning streak. Beating a Scott Tolzien-led Packers squad was a good example of this. Now let’s see what they can do at home against a talented Dallas squad.

22. Tennessee Titans (4-6); lost to Indianapolis 30-27, drops one spot – Chris chris-johnsonJohnson had a big first quarter as he ran for 70 yards and two touchdowns. However, the Titans fell flat after this and have now lost five out of their last six games.

23. Oakland Raiders (4-6); beat Houston 28-23, moves up one spot – Given that they’ve used three quarterbacks this season and are still the Raiders, Oakland shouldn’t be alive in the AFC playoff race. But then again, it seems like nobody wants that last Wild Card slot.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-6); beat Detroit 37-27, moves up two spots – Ben Roethlisberger looked good while throwing for 367 yards and four touchdowns, and the defense made some great second-half adjustments.

25. St. Louis Rams (4-6); bye week, retains same ranking – The Rams have plenty of momentum coming off a bye after the way they handled Indianapolis on the road. Now they host a difficult matchup with the Bears.

26. Washington Redskins (3-7); lost to Philadelphia 24-16, drops three spots – Robert Griffin III’s comments about how predictable his team’s offense was certainly doesn’t bode well for a team that’s already had a tough season. But the sad part is, he’s right and the Eagles subpar defense took full advantage of this.

27. Buffalo Bills (4-6); beat New York Jets 37-14, moves up two spots – So much for that stingy New York defense. Buffalo had their way in this one after harassing Geno Smith into four turnovers – two of which were Jairus Byrd interceptions.

28. Tampa Bay (2-8); beat Atlanta 41-28, moves up two spots – If Tampa Bay were in the AFC, they’d be in the hunt for a postseason bid. All jokes aside, the Bucs have played quite well over the past three weeks.

29. Houston Texans (2-8); lost to Oakland 28-23, drops one spot – Nobody can really figure out Gary Kubiak’s decision to play Matt Schaub towards the end, even though Case Keenum wasn’t playing too badly. It may be harsh to say, given Kubiak’s mini-stroke a couple of weeks ago, but he’s almost assuredly gone after eight years in Houston.

30. Atlanta Falcons (2-8); lost to Tampa Bay 41-28, drops three spots – Atlanta played pretty lifelessly in the first three quarters, making it seem like they’ve given up. Tampa Bay called off the dogs in the fourth quarter, which allowed Atlanta to score 15 points and make this game look less horrid.

31. Minnesota Vikings (2-8); lost to Seattle 41-20, retains same ranking – After 129 yards, 1 TD and 2 INT’s from Christian Ponder, is the Josh Freeman experiment back on?

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9); lost to Arizona 27-14, retains same ranking – Give credit to Jacksonville for obliterating the Cardinals’ running game and jumping out to a first-quarter lead. But they are still bad…

Reggie Bush to Lions, Wes Welker out in New England

reggie-bushThe NFL offeseason continues to be action-packed as a number of big-name stars are finding their way to new teams. Earlier this week, Percy Harvin found a new home in Seattle after the Minnesota Vikings traded away the fourth-year player. Apparently, Minnesota had grown tired of his antics, contract demands, and insistence that QB Christian Ponder stinks. In exchange, the Seahawks will receive the 25th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, along with a seventh round pick (2013) and third round pick (2014).

The Harvin news is already a bit old, but a brand new story has veteran running back Reggie Bush going to the Detroit Lions. The exact dollar figures haven’t been released yet, but the deal is for four years. Considering that Bush had a two-year, $9.75 million deal with the Miami Dolphins and played his best football there, it’s likely that he could be earning more than the annual $4.88 million from the old contract. Bush has run for 4,162 yards and 29 touchdowns, and caught 372 passes for 2,730 yards and 15 touchdowns in his seven-year career.

After being selected by the New Orleans Saints with the second overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, Bush was largely viewed as a disappointment during his time in New Orleans. However, he experienced something of a career revival with the Dolphins by rushing for 2,072 yards and 12 touchdowns, and adding 78 catches for 588 yards.

During this time, Bush proved that he can be an every-down back – something which definitely wasn’t apparent in New Orleans. Of course, the USC product won’t have to carry the full load in Detroit since the Lions also have Mike LeShoure. After missing the first two games of the 2012 season with an injury, LeShoure ran for 788 yards, which ranked 23rd in the NFL last year.

Bush should fill the gaping void left by Jahvid Best, who Detroit hoped would be a speedy, explosive back after using their 2010 first round pick on the California star. However, Best dealt with serious concussion issues before being released by the Lions in 2012.

Reggie Bush signing with the Detroit Lions isn’t the only big news from today, so here’s a look at what else is currently happening in the NFL.

wes-welkerWes Welker unhappy with New England Offer

Following another fine year in which he caught 118 passes for 1,354 yards and 6 touchdowns, Wes Welker was hoping to get a nice fat contract renewal from the New England Patriots. But what he got instead was a “laughably low” first offer that has the 10-year veteran ready to test the free agency market.

Apparently, the Patriots are going after Cleveland do-it-all receiver Josh Cribbs and don’t consider Welker a top priority – despite his incredible route running skills and impressive yards-after-the catch stats. It’s unclear where Welker will fit in elsewhere, but Philadelphia would be a nice spot since new head coach Chip Kelly loves to run screen routes.

rashard-mendenhallRashard Mendenhall signs with Arizona Cardinals

Two years ago, this would have been much bigger news. However, Mendenhall suffered through a dismal, injury-plagued season with the Pittsburgh Steelers and only rushed for 182 yards in 2012. Nevertheless, this one-year deal could definitely benefit both sides because Mendenhall can immediately step into the starting role for Arizona.

After all, the Cardinals were terrible at running the football since they averaged just 3.4 yards per carry; their leading rusher was third-down back LaRod Stephens-Howling, who had 356 yards on 110 carries. Beanie Wells (234 RYDS in 2012) was expected to be a full-time starter last year, but suffered a turf toe injury and was released this offseason.

As for Mendenhall, he has 3,549 rushing yards in five seasons, including a 2010 campaign where he ran for 1,273 yards and 13 touchdowns.

mike-goodsonMike Goodson visits Cincinnati Bengals

One more piece of recent NFL offseason news worth reporting is that former Oakland Raiders running back Mike Goodson is visiting the Cincinnati Bengals. He’s also being pursued by the New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys, but appears closest to signing with the Bengals.

Cincinnati already has BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who ran for 1,094 yards and 6 touchdowns last year; however, Green-Ellis isn’t a great receiver or breakaway back, which makes Goodson a perfect compliment. In five years, Goodson has ran for 722 yards, caught 78 passes for 524 yards, and scored four touchdowns in a third-down role.

Minnesota Vikings could solve Percy Harvin Dilemma with Mike Wallace

percy-harvinThere’s no question that the Minnesota Vikings are a better overall football team when Percy Harvin is on the field. After all, he’s one of the league’s most dynamic kickoff returners and slot receivers – plus he even plays some running back. But is Harvin worth the $16.5 million annually that he’s hoping to earn in free agency?

The Vikings can’t really seem to come up with an answer, and it appears as if they could be making preparations for life without Harvin. The 24-year-old has one more year left on his contract and wants to be re-signed before training camp opens later in 2013. Assuming he doesn’t get re-signed this offseason, it’s very possible that he will hold out and skip some regular season games.

Cincinnati Bengals v Pittsburgh SteelersAs this headache inches closer and closer, the Vikings are out shopping for other wide receivers. And the biggest name to surface so far is Mike Wallace, who’s hoping for a fresh start following a down year with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

After serving as a legitimate number one wideout for the Steelers in 2010 (1,257 receiving YDS, 10 TD) and 2011 (1,193 receiving YDS, 8 TD), Wallace regressed with 836 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in 2012. Of course, most people still see the talent as being there, which is why Minnesota is willing to enter a bidding war with the Miami Dolphins.

The way that some Vikings fans see it now, they could have two top receiving threats by signing Wallace. And this would certainly be a welcome thought for starting quarterback Christian Ponder, who was relegated to a receiving quartet of Michael Jenkins, Kyle Rudolph, Jerome Simpson and Jarius Wright at the end of the year.

percy-harvin-1However, the reality is that it could just be Wallace boosting the receiving corps., with Percy Harvin playing the minimum to qualify for free agency next offseason. It’s ultimately up to the Vikings to decide if they want to pay Harvin the same kind of money that Calvin Johnson earns. Here’s a quick look at the pros and cons that Minnesota will be weighing.

Pros

A Big Threat – Percy Harvin is a dangerous player who’s more valuable than his numbers indicate. His speed and mobility make Harvin somebody that commands extra attention any time he’s on the field. This in turn frees other players up for more production like Adrian Peterson, Jenkins and Rudolph.

Solid Numbers – In just nine games last year, Harvin managed to catch 62 balls for 677 yards, rushed for 96 yards, had a 105-yard kickoff return, and scored five total touchdowns.

Proven Winner – The Vikings had a pretty successful year after going 10-6 and making the playoffs. In the eight full games that Harvin played last season, the Vikings went 5-3 and looked good while doing so.

percy-harvin-2Christian Ponder needs Him – One of the biggest aids to Adrian Peterson’s 2,000-plus-yard rushing campaign was how badly Ponder performed in Harvin’s absence; in other words, Minnesota was forced to run Peterson over and over again. With his favorite target in the lineup, Ponder threw for over 200 yards five times in nine games; without Harvin, Ponder was only able to go over 200 yards twice passing in seven games.

Cons

Injury-Prone – In his first three seasons, Percy Harvin rarely missed any games. However, he did sit out plenty of snaps due to migraines and other nagging injury problems. But last year, things really bottomed-out when the Florida product was placed on the injured reserve mid-season with an ailing hip and ankle. Percy only managed to play in nine contests in 2012 because of this.

Bad Temperament – $16.5 million is a lot of money to pay annually for a guy who’s had run-ins with coaches dating back to his college days. He was seen yelling at coach Leslie Frazier last year during the Seattle game – most likely over wanting the ball more. He also threw a weight at former Vikings coach Brad Childress when Randy Moss was cut from the team.

Sulkiness/Immaturity – Nobody questions Percy Harvin’s desire to win. But when things don’t go his way, Harvin has the tendency to sulk and be immature. The screaming matches with coaches are a good example of this. He also demanded a trade when he was unhappy with the Vikings prospects last summer. This being said, it won’t be surprising if his heart isn’t into the team when/if a giant contract doesn’t come.

It certainly won’t be easy for Minnesota to hand Harvin anywhere in the neighborhood of $16.5 million per year based on the cons we discussed. However, they can’t exactly afford to let him walk without getting Wallace based on the pros we talked about. All we can say is that the Vikings’ front office is a tough place to be right now.

Adrian Peterson eyes Rushing Record in Unfathomable Season

Almost one year ago today, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson tore several ligaments in his knee during a Week 16 game. The injury was so bad that many people questioned how effective he’d be coming into this season. The answer: he’s been the best running back in 2012…..and perhaps history, depending upon what happens over the next two weeks.

Earlier today, the man they call “All Day” obliterated the St. Louis Rams while dashing their playoff hopes in the process. He rushed for 212 yards on just 24 caries (8.8 YPC) and scored on an 82-yard touchdown run. Following this game, he’s now rushed for over 100 yards in the past eight games with six of these contests seeing AP go over 150 yards.

Thanks to his improbable streak against some of the league’s best defenses, Peterson is now eyeing one of the most coveted records in NFL history.

294 Yards to History

As of now, Adrian Peterson has powered his way to 1,812 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on 289 carries. If the season stopped today, he’d have 433 yards more than the next closest running back in 2012, Marshawn Lynch. He’d also have the 19th best rushing season in NFL history. However, the season’s not over yet; in fact, there are still two games remaining.

Based on the pace that Peterson has been going at, he’s got a very realistic chance to beat Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record of 2,105 yards. This total, which happened in 1984, has stood for 28 years. So can Peterson break it based on his remaining schedule?

Favorable Schedule

The past two weeks will see Minnesota play on the road against the Houston Texans and at home against the Green Bay Packers. On paper, the Texans aren’t exactly the most favorable team to play since they’re fifth in the league against the run and allow only 93.2 RYPG.

However, they’ve been lit up over the past two games after allowing 127 rushing yards to the New England Patriots and 124 rushing yards to the run-challenged Indianapolis Colts.

As for the Packers, they are a more favorable defense having allowed 114.3 RYPG this year. They’re fresh off giving up 212 yards to Peterson in Week 13, so we can reasonably expect some pretty outstanding results from All Day in the regular season’s final week.

What if the Record doesn’t fall?

While it’s no slam dunk for Adrian Peterson to reach 2,106 rushing yards this year, we think that he has a very good shot. But even if the 27-year-old doesn’t grab the single season record, he may have already completed the most impressive season among running backs in history.

As alluded to in the beginning, he’s coming off of reconstructive knee surgery, which should have made 2012 even tougher. Instead, Peterson is enjoying a career season and proving that he’s truly a freak of nature.

One more thing that we should mention involves what else is surrounding AP…..or at least the lack of what’s surrounding him. Second-year quarterback Christian Ponder showed flashes of brilliance early on in the season, but has thrown for 200 yards just once in the past six games.

WR Percy Harvin was definitely a nice weapon for the Vikings early on after racking up 677 receiving yards on 62 catches midway through the season. However, he was forced out of action (ankle) in Week 10 and won’t play the rest of the year.

Taking all of this into account, opposing defenses know what’s coming when they face Minnesota – Adrian Peterson and a whole lot more Adrian Peterson. But they still haven’t been able to slow down him down. So with defenses throwing everything at him, and AP being less than a year removed from knee surgery, he’s already proven his place in history. The single season rushing record would just cementer this place even further.