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There is both a beauty and a curse to living in the modern age. Sure, we walk around with access to the complete wealth of human knowledge in our pockets or our purses, but that comes at a price. The update. Our lives are a constant stream of updates. We slide our phones open, and there is an update. We power up our computers, and there is an update. We start our cars, and the navigation system needs an update. We even try and get a glass of water from the refrigerator, and that needs an update. Updates all around us.
So why should this week’s Power Rankings be any different?
After all, the games are not even finished yet. The Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were slated to play on Thanksgiving Night, will kick things off on Tuesday.
*receives e-mail from NFL Communications*
Nope, Wednesday. For now.
So for now, those two teams are roughly slated into the Power Rankings, and like with life in general in the modern era, expect an update sometime this week.
Don’t forget to turn your automatic updates on, friends.
32. New York Jets (0-11. Last week: 32)
(Kevin Wexler-USA TODAY Sports)
Sometimes the photo just fits, and this is one of those moments. Looking to perhaps jump start the offense - again - Adam Gase took back play-calling duties (or did he, as it is all so confusing given his postgame comments) and returned Sam Darnold to the starting lineup for the New York Jets. It did not have the desired effect. Unless of course you are fully aboard “Team Tank.” The Jets offense struggled even with the return of Darnold to the huddle. The young quarterback threw a pair of interceptions that looked like rookie mistakes rather than the kind of plays you expect to see from a third-year passer. The first came with Darnold flushing to his right and throwing late when he should have thrown the ball away. Then late trailing 20-3 he did...whatever this is: https://twitter.com/TheNJMick/status/1333152664897662977 Again, it is time for change in New York. We have been arguing that unless Gase is your secret weapon to finishing 0-16, it is time to let him go. He was hired to develop Darnold and the former USC quarterback - as shown above - still looks like a rookie. It’s time for new blood at head coach, and let’s be honest, at quarterback.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-10. Last week: 31)
(Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports)
The quarterback carousel continued down in Duval County, with this week Mike Glennon getting the start for the Jacksonville Jaguars. The veteran passer, cognizant of the moment, said earlier in the week that since he had nothing to lose, he was going to let it rip. And for a time, he did. Glennon performed pretty well in Jacksonville’s loss to the Cleveland Browns. He completed 20 of 35 passes for 235 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The first came on this 46-yard strike to rookie wide receiver Collin Johnson: https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1333124901117464576 It was a beautiful throw with touch from Glennon, and the rookie finished the play with a great run and dive into the end zone for his second NFL TD. Then Glennon connected with veteran tight end Tyler Eifert on a red zone score to give the Jaguars the lead: https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1333135680516497409 This was a tremendous catch from the veteran TE. Unfortunately, the Jaguars did not have an answer for the Cleveland running game, as well as Baker Mayfield in the red zone. Nick Chubb put up 144 rushing yards on just 19 carries, along with a touchdown, and Mayfield threw a pair of touchdowns in the 27-25 win. After the Jaguars scored a touchdown to cut the Cleveland lead to two, they elected to kick the ball deep with just over two minutes remaining and looked to stop the Browns offense. With all three-timeouts remaining it looked like a smart decision, but the Browns were able to close out the game, converting a 3rd and 12 with 1:37 to seal the win. After the game, general manager Dave Caldwell was fired. It seems time has run short in Jacksonville, and is Doug Marrone next?
30. Cincinnati Bengals (2-8-1. Last week: 29)
(Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)
In their first game of the 2020 season without quarterback Joe Burrow, the Cincinnati Bengals turned to Brandon Allen at quarterback. They got a kickoff return touchdown from Brandon Wilson. They rolled out some trick plays including a fake punt early in the third quarter. And at the end, they had the football with a chance to pull out the win on the game’s final drive. Unfortunately, they came up two points short. Zac Taylor’s charges put up a solid fight on Sunday, but it was not enough as they fell 19-17 to the New York Giants. Allen completed 17 of 29 passes for 136 yards and a touchdown in the loss, but he did throw an interception in the second half that the Giants converted into three points on their ensuing possession. Wilson’s 103-yard kick return is worth a look: https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1333112524309368834 But in the end, this season was about the development of Burrow. With the rookie QB sidelined with a knee injury, the Bengals are now looking to evaluate the rest of the roster in preparation for 2021. That has to start with the offensive line. And here is where you can start, Bengals fans: https://twitter.com/MoveTheSticks/status/1332500132617547777
29. Detroit Lions (4-7. Last week: 28)
(Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports)
Well, it finally happened. In the wake of an embarrassing home loss on Thanksgiving Day to the Houston Texans - in front of a national television audience no less - the ownership group of the Detroit Lions announced on Saturday that they were parting ways with general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia. The announcement came, as it does these days, on social media: https://twitter.com/Lions/status/1332772058724491266 The move brings to an end a brutal run by Patricia in the Motor City. Despite the hype of the “Belichick Tree,” the former defensive coordinator in New England now serves as yet another rotten branch on that bit of timber. During his time in Detroit, Patricia chalked up just 13 wins, against 29 losses and one time. The 41-25 loss to the Texans on Thursday serves as the final nail in the proverbial coffin. As for Quinn, one of his biggest decisions was firing Jim Caldwell and replacing him with Patricia. Given Patricia’s record, this could not have been a surprise. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell will take over as the interim head coach, but the team now faces decisions at both general manager and for a permanent head coach. Names will be floated around in the near future, but for now here are some of our suggestions for both HC and GM.
28. Philadelphia Eagles (3-7-1. Last week: 27)
(AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)
From Philadelphia’s perspective, the start of this Monday night's game against the Seattle Seahawks was all about their defense. After the offense punted on the game’s opening possession, the Seahawks marched all the way inside the Eagles’ five-yard line. But on a fourth down attempt, defensive end Derek Barnett stopped an attempted outside run to force the turnover on downs: https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1333585406676275201 Then on Seattle’s very next possession, the Seahawks faced another fourth down. Again, it was Barnett with the stop, dragging down quarterback Russell Wilson behind the line of scrimmage: https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1333588323009323013 Unfortunately, the offense could not match the early play from the defense as Carson Wentz and company struggled out of the gate. On their first four possessions, their drives ended with four-straight three-and-outs. Doug Pederson even turned to rookie backup quarterback Jalen Hurts, who completed a short throw to Alshon Jeffery for a minimal gain. At one point, the Seahawks had 14 points and 15 first downs. The Eagles had 15 offensive plays and nothing to show for it. They did finally put together a scoring drive before halftime, and even that was a struggle. On the drive Wentz failed to see an opportunity to throw a seam route against single-high coverage - the kind of play I highlighted in this piece and corresponding video breakdown - and ESPN’s Brian Griese highlighted the missed chance as well. But the Eagles did get into the end zone, with Wentz finding Dallas Goedert for a touchdown on a nicely-executed stick-nod route. But then kicker Jake Elliott missed the extra point. The teams traded third quarter field goals, but early in the fourth Philadelphia faced a critical fourth down near midfield. Pederson kept the offense in the game, but Wentz’s pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage, giving Seattle great field position. The Eagles faced another fourth down decision later in the quarter, facing a fourth-and-4 deep in the red zone. Instead of kicking a field goal to make it a 12-point game Pederson again kept his offense on the field. Wentz targeted Goedert but the two were not on the same page, and the pass sailed into the hands of a defender in the end zone for a brutal interception. Now, Philadelphia has to wonder about where to go from here, given that they now trail Washington and the New York Giants in the division and still have the Packers, Saints and Cardinals over the next three weeks. Expect to hear a lot about Hurts over the next week.
27. Dallas Cowboys (3-8. Last week: 26)
(Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)
Despite everything the Dallas Cowboys have gone through this season, such as the season-ending injury to Dak Prescott, backup Andy Dalton also getting hurt and then contracting COVID-19, their defense being porous, and ball control struggles from Ezekiel Elliott, they entered Week 12 with a chance to take the lead in the division. On a national stage on a holiday. So of course, this happened: https://twitter.com/SBNation/status/1332120897239519232 The Cowboys dropped a game to their bitter rivals at home on Thanksgiving, absorbing the dual blow of not only losing to Washington but seeing their hated enemies take the lead in the hideous hovel that is the NFC East. Elliott managed just 32 yards on the ground against Washington, and what was a one-score game entering the fourth quarter turned into a blowout as Washington ripped off 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. Up next? Honestly who knows right now. The Cowboys are scheduled to play the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday night, but as you are probably aware the Ravens have yet to play their Week 12 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, so in all likelihood that probably gets pushed back. If you are a Cowboys fan looking for hope, at least Dallas plays Cincinnati, San Francisco, Philadelphia and the Giants down the stretch. Those are - potentially - some winnable games on paper.
26. Atlanta Falcons. (4-7. Last week: 30)
(Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)
As far as surprising games go, this one is certainly up there. Perhaps this was a let down game from the Las Vegas Raiders, fresh off their last-second loss to the Kansas City Chiefs a week ago. But if so, the Atlanta Falcons were ready to take advantage. After a somewhat sluggish start from both teams, the Falcons were able to break away in this contest and ended up winning in blowout fashion, 43-6. Atlanta was able to take advantage of many mistakes from the Raiders. Early in the game they forced a strip-sack of Derek Carr, and Atlanta picked up a field goal on their ensuing possession to take a 3-0 lead. Then they turned another strip-sack into three more points, setting them up with a 16-3 lead before the half. Then, perhaps the biggest one of the game. The Falcons defense got pressure on Carr on a second-and-10 play early in the third quarter, and Carr’s throw under duress was behind his target. Linebacker Deion Jones stepped in front of the errant pass and returned it for the touchdown, giving Atlanta a 23-6 lead that seemed insurmountable at the time: https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1333143655972888577 The back-breaker came on the next Atlanta possession, with Matt Ryan finding a wide-open Brandon Powell on a mesh concept for the touchdown: https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1333151021019721728 The win does not move the Falcons into playoff contention, but it is one more piece of evidence that Raheem Morris deserves serious consideration for the head coaching job on a permanent basis. The Falcons have been a much better team under his guidance, and should have won five of his six games as the interim head coach. We have long been advocates for Morris’ job prospects -- well, at least over the past month or so -- and he does deserve the shot on a full-time basis.
25. Los Angeles Chargers (3-8. Last week: 22)
(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Before I had a chance to sit down and take a spin through the Los Angeles Chargers’ 27-17 loss to the Buffalo Bills, I asked around in various group chats if someone could just give me the quick summary of how the Chargers lost to the Bills. The “tl;dr” version, as the kids say. Look, I’m an older man and yes this is how I sometimes feel in this business:
This was perhaps the best summary I got sent back to me: “Oh, dear God.” There is a saying in baseball that when a team loses a game by a single run, the loss is attributable to the manager. If perhaps one decision was made differently, the game might have come out differently. Of course, that puts a lot of weight on the manager’s decisions, but it has become gospel in the sport. With football, all the moving parts make a one-to-one comparison difficult. But if you want to go down that road, seven of the Chargers’ eight losses this season were by one score. The only one? Sunday against the Bills. The Chargers were given three extra possessions in the second half, thanks to a pair of Bills’ fumbles and an interception. Three-straight Buffalo drives, three-straight extra possessions. What did they do with those? A field goal, a punt and an interception. Those came with the Bills holding a 24-14 lead. Instead of cutting into that deficit - or maybe even taking a lead of their own - the Chargers did what they often do. They “Chargered.” And if you are the kind of person that needs visual evidence, then this end-of-game sequence needs to be seen to be believed: https://twitter.com/BenjaminSolak/status/1333186853139312640 Yes, Justin Herbert is playing well. Yes, this is a talented roster. But at some point talent and close losses need to translate into wins. That is not happening yet, and a change might need to be made.
24. Denver Broncos (4-7. Last week: 21)
(Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)
The Denver Broncos were placed in an absolutely untenable position on Sunday. Whether that was of their own doing, a failure by the NFL, or a combination thereof, I will leave up to the ages. But regardless of how it came to fruition, the Broncos were forced to play Sunday without any of their four rostered quarterbacks. It was due to Jeff Driskel testing positive for COVID-19, and the other three quarterbacks being identified as “high-risk COVID-19 close contacts” who needed to complete a five-day quarantine until they could return to action. The reason? The four players were in meeting rooms and Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles were not wearing masks. As a result, the Broncos turned to a practice squad player, wide receiver Kendall Hinton, who was elevated from the practice squad to get the start at quarterback. The Broncos' social media team made the announcement on Twitter and highlighted Hinton’s time at QB while at Wake Forest: https://twitter.com/Broncos/status/1333072120675520515 The problem? Well beyond the obvious ones, was the fact that some introductions were necessary: https://twitter.com/JamesPalmerTV/status/1333097675554742274 The result was probably what many expected. The Broncos and Hinton struggled on the offensive side of the football and were on the wrong end of a 31-3 loss. In a game that went by so fast you wonder if there was a running clock, Hinton completed just one of nine passing attempts for 13 yards and a pair of interceptions. Honestly, there is not much you can take away from this game in terms of evaluating the Broncos. They were behind the eight ball on Sunday, and the result reflects that fact. But I will say this: Hinton deserves the respect his team has been showing him in the wake of the loss. He was put in an unimaginable situation, and deserves credit for the effort: https://twitter.com/PSchrags/status/1333207475030462465 https://twitter.com/Broncos/status/1333195716831838208 If I had one to give out, he’d get a game ball from me for sure.
23. Carolina Panthers (4-8. Last week: 20)
(Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)
One of the most awkward moments of the entire NFL draft cycle is the morning Weigh In at the Senior Bowl down in Mobile, Alabama. Prospective NFL rookies walk across a stage at the Mobile Convention Center wearing just shorts, to get weighted and measured in front of NFL scouts and the assembled media. It is... weird, to say the least. Sometimes, however, a player or two “wins the weigh-in.” Javon Kinlaw certainly stood out for his size and wingspan. Then there was Jeremy Chinn. The FCS safety strode across the stage and certainly turned some heads, with one member of the media writing that night that he was the “most rocked up defender there.” Chinn did face some questions, despite his impressive size and athleticism, about where he would play in the NFL. Would he be a safety? A linebacker? A hybrid player? But in Carolina he has found a home, and it certainly paid off on Sunday. The rookie scored a pair of touchdowns in just 18 seconds of gametime, giving the Panthers a lead early in the second half. First there was a scoop-and-score on this sack of Kirk Cousins: https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1333133901531729922 Then just moments later, Chinn stripped Dalvin Cook in a pile, ripping the ball out and then scoring on the return: https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1333135955767660547 But the Panthers also got some help on the offensive side of the ball. Teddy Bridgewater returned to the starting lineup after missing a week with a knee injury and got involved early, connecting with Robby Anderson on this crossing route for a catch-and-run touchdown: https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1333126657092120576 Then later the two connected in the vertical game, with Bridgewater dropping in this throw to Anderson along the right sideline for a big gain in the passing game: https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1333149157637332992 Now, all of this is well and good, but the Panthers needed to finish the game after this great start. They did not. The Panthers squandered an 11-point lead in the second half, with the Vikings scoring 15 of the final 21 points in the game to edge Carolina by just one point. After getting out to that 24-13 lead with just under 12 minutes left, the Panthers managed a punt, a field goal and a missed game-winning field goal try on their final three possessions. Making things worse? They were gifted great field position with just over two minutes left. They punted while up three and returner Chad Beebe fumbled the football at the Vikings’ 14-yard line. Carolina recovered and faced a 1st and goal at the Minnesota nine-yard line with a chance to put the game away. They had to settle for three. That set the stage for heroics -- and redemption -- from Beebe. As well as a gutpunch of a loss from Carolina.
22. Washington Football Team (4-7. Last week: 25)
(Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)
This past draft season, Antonio Gibson sat down to watch film with Touchdown Wire’s own Doug Farrar. During that discussion, Gibson was asked about balancing his ability as both a wide receiver and a running back. His answer was illustrative:
I don’t have a preference, but I’ve been getting that question a lot. I feel more comfortable at receiver, just because that’s where I’ve been. But I feel more natural at running back. Once I get in the flow of things, I could be great back there, too. Running back is my preference at that next level because they could move me out [wide], and that’s where the league is going nowadays, moving guys around all over the place.
That natural talent has started to show over the past few weeks, and it certainly did on Thursday in Washington’s win over the Dallas Cowboys. Gibson put on a show of burst and explosiveness, gaining 136 yards on 25 touches, and scoring three touchdowns: https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1332353493152063490 Washington also turned to the back of the playbook for this little design: https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1332090743440044032 That’s right, the ol’ "Fumblerooski.” With the win over Dallas, the Football Team climbed to the top of the mountain of mediocrity that is the NFC East...for a while. Can they stay up there? Their toughest remaining test likely is this week, when they take on the Pittsburgh Steelers. After that Washington has games with San Francisco, Seattle, Carolina and Philadelphia, and you can make the case that Washington could win each of those games, especially if the Seattle defense falters again. As such, these really could be your eventual division champions.
21. Houston Texans (4-7. Last week: 23)
(Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports)
Will you finally listen to me? I know I often get things wrong - and I’m usually the first to admit that - but for weeks I have been begging readers, listeners and viewers to watch Deshaun Watson play quarterback for the Houston Texans. Sure, their record is bad, but ignore that and watch #4 play the position. Maybe the Thanksgiving Day holiday forced you to sit down and give it a shot. And now you are probably glad you did so. Watson turned in yet another strong performance on Thursday in carving up the Detroit Lions in Houston’s 41-25 blowout victory. Watson completed 17 of 25 passes for 318 yards and four touchdowns in the win, showing off his arm, his legs and his play-strength along the way. He showed off the arm and the touch on this vertical route to Will Fuller V for six: https://twitter.com/HoustonTexans/status/1332053966004375555 Watson also showed off his tremendous play-strength on a throwaway in the second half, when he looked to be dead in the backfield but managed to stay upright, avoid the sack and get the ball out to avoid the loss of yardage. Plus, when you can put longtime Houston scribe John McClain in a good mood, you’re doing something as a franchise: https://twitter.com/McClain_on_NFL/status/1332366435591593992 They’ll need to get the GM and head coach hires right - does Romeo Crennel have a case - but with Watson in place, along with some of the pieces around him, there is a winning team to build here in Houston.
20. New England Patriots (5-6. Last week: 24)
(Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports)
There are a lot of things you can say about the 2020 New England Patriots. One of them is that this year has been different. Another thing you can say is that it has been... fun? The Patriots came storming back to overcome an early ten-point deficit to upset the Arizona Cardinals on the game’s final play, with kicker Nick Folk drilling a 50-yard attempt to beat the Cardinals 20-17. The game got off to a rocky start for the home team when Cam Newton was intercepted on New England’s first offensive possession: https://twitter.com/iJordanMoore/status/1333111344921456640 This play highlights something that is a bit of a concern with the Patriots right now: Pass protection. The Cardinals bring pressure and veteran running back James White, who is usually solid with blitz pickup, slides outside before trying in vain to cut off the inside rusher. That allows the blitzer to impact the throw, and it is intercepted. But the Patriots stormed back with 17 unanswered points, including this well-designed play from Josh McDaniels and White to give New England a lead at 17-10: https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1333140939204751361 Later, the Patriots defense held after Newton’s second interception gave the Cardinals a chance to win the game, and Arizona kicker Zane Gonzalez pushed his field goal try wide to the right. The contest seemed destined for overtime but Newton picked up a first down on a designed run on third-and-long, and with rookie Isaiah Simmons flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit on the play, New England was almost in range. They picked up a few more yards for Folk who converted to give the Patriots the win. With the victory, New England’s slim playoff hopes remain alive for another week. Up next? A trip to the West Coast for back-to-back games in Los Angeles. They’ll see rookie Justin Herbert and the Chargers next weekend.
19. Chicago Bears (5-6. Last week: 18)
North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance is perhaps more of a developmental prospect, but he has the combination of arm talent and athleticism that is almost necessary to succeed as a passer in the modern NFL. He also comes from what many consider to be a more “pro-style” offensive system at NDSU, as he is familiar at operating under center and executes the “back to the defense play-action” drops that NFL offensive coordinators covet. Oh. My apologies. I saw the Chicago Bears header and instantly got into quarterback evaluation mode. Although those days are likely going to be upon us soon regarding the Bears, especially in the way of Sunday night’s blowout loss at the hands of the Green Bay Packers. The offense struggled, Aaron Rodgers took advantage of a great gameplan from Matt LaFleur, and most people were reaching for their remotes by halftime. The only question facing Chicago right now is whether this loss to their bitter rivals on a national stage is the impetus for change.
18. New York Giants (4-7. Last week: 19)
Give it up for your NFC East-leading New York Giants! Which is a thing that we say in this, the year of Our Lord 2020. On the backs of a three-game winning streak, the most recent victory this week’s 19-17 win over the Joe Burrow-less Cincinnati Bengals, and thanks to a season sweep of the Washington Football Team, Joe Judge and the New York Giants slid into the top of the NFC East. With a rock-solid 4-7 record. Like many of the games this week, this one was a little on the ugly side. The Giants got the scoring going early, with Wayne Gallman plunging in on a 4th and goal run on New York’s opening possession of the game: https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1333110976925765632 This was a 10-10 game at halftime, and the Giants broke the tie on their opening possession of the third quarter thanks to a field goal from Graham Gano. That might have come at a cost, however, as quarterback Daniel Jones was slow to get up after a short throw to Gallman to move the chains on a third-down play, and he left the game with a hamstring injury. Colt McCoy came on in relief, and completed six of ten passes for 31 yards. He did direct two field goal drives, giving the Giants a 19-17 lead late. From there, it was the defense. That unit preserved the win with a strip-sack at the end to hold off Brandon Allen and Cincinnati: https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1333153929165635585 What makes the Giants’ prospects of hanging on in the NFC East shaky is not so much the injury to Jones - although that does not help - but their upcoming schedule. Over the next four weeks they face Seattle, Arizona, Cleveland and Baltimore. All teams with winning records, all teams in the playoff hunt. This is arguably the toughest stretch of the Giants’ season, and it comes at a most inopportune time. If they manage to survive December and remain on top in the East, they’ll have earned that division title the hard way.
17. Minnesota Vikings (5-6. Last week: 17)
(Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)
Sports fans love redemption stories. Hard to find one better than what we saw in Minnesota from Vikings wide receiver Chad Beebe. In the midst of Minnesota’s comeback win over the visiting Carolina Panthers, it looked like Beebe was going to be the goat of the game. After the Vikings defense forced a Panthers’ punt, Beebe muffed the kick return, gifting the Panthers possession inside the Minnesota ten-yard line. With just 2:18 left in the game and the Vikings trailing by three, it seemed like Minnesota would end up on the wrong end of the final score. But the Minnesota defense held the Panthers to just three points, giving the Vikings a chance to take the lead on their next possession. They did, in dramatic fashion: https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1333157830212210688 Quarterback Kirk Cousins found Beebe in the back of the end zone for the touchdown, and the extra point gave the Vikings a one-point lead. It was the first career touchdown for the receiver, and quite a bit of redemption. Speaking of receivers, we have to acknowledge Justin Jefferson. His stellar rookie season continued on Sunday, with the former LSU Tiger catching seven passes for 70 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His first came on this throw from Cousins on a route working inside: https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1333113060878270464 Then the QB and WR connected later in the game, and with a successful two-point conversion the Panthers’ lead was cut to three late: https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1333152509783724034 With the win the Vikings pulled to 5-6 on the year, and with the Jacksonville Jaguars coming up, they are in good shape to get to .500 as the calendar flips to December. Not too bad for a team that many considered sellers just a few weeks ago.
16. San Francisco 49ers (5-6. Last week: 16)
(AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
At some point, San Francisco 49ers head coach Robert Saleh is going to be a head coach. When that happens, what he did this season might be the biggest reason why. Sunday’s gameplan against the Los Angeles Rams and Jared Goff is another example of what Saleh brings to the table as a defensive mind. The 49ers were able to confuse and frustrate Goff, forcing two interceptions, sacking him twice and forcing fumbles from both Malcolm Brown and Goff himself. One of the interceptions, from rookie defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, resulted in a Pick-Six, helping the 49ers overcome some struggles on the offensive side of the football: https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1333181107739664384 After the game Kinlaw mentioned that he started to rush, stopped to retreat, and managed to get himself in the throwing lane for the big play. The other interception came from cornerback Richard Sherman, making his return to the lineup after missing a few weeks with an injury. Speaking with the media post-game, Sherman had nothing but praise for his DC: https://twitter.com/BillyM_91/status/1333215807007023105 Now, Kyle Shanahan and the rest of the 49ers face a rather uncertain future. Due to rising COVID-19 cases in Santa Clara County, county officials are imposing a three-week ban on all athletic events, including the NFL. That means the 49ers are likely going to have to find a new home for the next three weeks. Shanahan was not too pleased after the game: https://twitter.com/KP_Show/status/1333211092466614272 San Francisco has faced a number of challenges this year with injuries, COVID-19 situations, and more. But their slim playoff hopes remain alive this week, and it is a credit to their team and their coaches that they still have a shot even with all the uncertainty.
15. Arizona Cardinals (6-5. Last week: 14)
(Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports)
This was a gut-punch loss for the Arizona Cardinals. Their afternoon in Foxboro, Massachusetts could not have gotten out to a better start. They deferred after winning the coin toss and let the New England Patriots offense get first crack at possession. On a 3rd and 6 situation they blitzed Cam Newton and got home, impacting the throw which was intercepted. They scored in three plays to take an early 7-0 lead. Then when the Patriots stalled and punted on their second possession, the Cardinals marched into field goal range after starting on their own three-yard line, and settled for a field goal. Still, it was an impressive drive and they now had a ten-point lead. This game perhaps turned on the final play of the first half. The Cardinals faced a 4th and goal inside the one with a 10-7 lead. Remember, they would be getting the second half kickoff. Kliff Kingsbury kept his offense on the field envisioning a potential 14-point swing with the double dip. But running back Kenyan Drake was stopped short of the end zone, and the Patriots defense held. In the second half, the Patriots scored the next 14 points to get out to a 17-10 lead. But the Cardinals still had chances to win, especially after picking off Newton late in the fourth quarter. However, Zane Gonzalez pushed a field goal wide to the right that would have given the Cardinals a three-point lead late, and then the Patriots were able to win on the game’s final play with a field goal of their own. That was enabled by Isaiah Simmons hitting Newton helmet-to-helmet, giving the Patriots 15 free yards. After climbing to the top of the NFC West with Seattle and the Rams, the Cardinals have now lost two-straight games. What might be most worrisome is how their offense looked on Sunday, as they were not in sync for most of the contest. They’ll need to get back on track -- and in a hurry -- if they’re going to make the playoffs.
14. Las Vegas Raiders (6-5. Last week: 12)
(Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)
Sometimes as a writer. you realize that you need a pinch-hitter. Someone to step in for you and do what you cannot, which is to crystalize a moment in time. In that spirit, allow me to refer you to ESPN’s Paul Guiterrez, who summed up the Las Vegas Raiders much better than I can in the wake of their embarrassing 43-6 loss to the Atlanta Falcons: No, the Las Vegas Raiders are not elite. They are not a playoff team. And they are not ready to take that next step. At least, not yet. What makes matters worse? History. As pointed out by Gutierrez the Raiders’ 2019 chances were doomed in a blowout 34-3 loss that dropped them to 6-5. That came at the hands of the New York Jets. Right now? The Raiders are 6-5, and they play the Jets next week. There is little positive to find in this game from a Raiders’ perspective. Derek Carr was a turnover machine, putting the ball on the turf twice on strip-sacks and throwing a brutal Pick Six that broke the game open. Sure, there was an early connection to rookie wide receiver Henry Ruggs III in the downfield passing game to convert a fourth down, but that was perhaps the sole bright spot on an embarrassing afternoon. At least they have the Jets next week. History aside.
13. Baltimore Ravens (6-4. Week 12 Game Pending. Last week: 13)
(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)
What a mess. The Baltimore Ravens were originally scheduled to play on Thanksgiving Night. It was a divisional battle between the Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers, with playoff implications not just within the AFC North, but for the entire conference. With a win the Steelers would be one step closer to the top-overall seed and the only playoff bye week. But if the Ravens came out on top, Baltimore would inch back into the discussion in the AFC North. But a COVID-19 outbreak among the Ravens and their staff forced the NFL to push the game back. Originally it was moved to Sunday, but then after players in Pittsburgh started to test positive, the game was moved to Tuesday night. As of right now, here are players who have tested positive: Lamar Jackson, Calais Campball, Mark Ingram, J.K. Dobbins, Mark Andrews and Matthew Judon. Andrews and Judon tested positive over the weekend, which will force them out of the lineup for Tuesday night. The positive test for Andrews comes with bigger concerns, as the tight end has type 1 Diabetes, which is a pre-existing condition that has increased the risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Then, the team tried to take the practice field Monday morning for a walkthrough, but were stopped by the league before practice got going. They were told to close down until later on Monday at the earliest. Not the ideal way to play a game, whenever they finally do. We will update the Touchdown Wire Power Rankings after this game, whether on Tuesday night, Wednesday afternoon, Festivus... for the rest of us.
12. Miami Dolphins (7-4. Last week: 15)
(Kevin Wexler-USA TODAY Sports)
After days of speculation, Ryan Fitzpatrick returned to the huddle as the quarterback of the Miami Dolphins. Rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa sat out the game Sunday against the New York Jets thanks to a thumb injury. Whether it was Fitzpatrick, Tagovailoa or maybe even one of my cats, the Dolphins were going to be the better team on Sunday. Sure, that has a lot to do with how bad the Jets are right now, but the Dolphins found ways to confuse and fluster Sam Darnold on defense, and they found ways to execute down in the red zone on offense. Fitzpatrick threw a pair of touchdowns in the win, completing 24 of 39 passes for 257 yards and the two scores. His favorite weapons? DeVante Parker, who had a game-high eight receptions for 119 yards as well as tight ends Mike Gesicki and Adam Shaheen. Fitzpatrick found the former Penn State TE with his first touchdown toss, coming on this touch throw in the red zone that featured a great adjustment by Gesicki: https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1333123714691469313 Then later in the game he found Shaheen on this quick curl pattern for the score: https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1333149826393853953 This was Shaheen’s only catch, and he made it count. So in the wake of last week’s Disaster in Denver, the Dolphins are back in the win column. They should get another W next week, as they host the Cincinnati Bengals. That should put the Dolphins at 8-4 heading into what will be a fascinating matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs on December 13th. How Brian Flores and defensive coordinator Josh Boyer scheme for Patrick Mahomes is going to be fun to see.
11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5. Last week: 8)
(Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
Back at the end of October, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were 5-2 and considered one of the better teams in the league. They demolished the Green Bay Packers in Week 6 by a final score of 38-10, and then hung 45 on the Las Vegas Raiders the following week to win by 25. Since then the Buccaneers have gone 2-3, including a 38-3 loss at the hands of the New Orleans Saints, and back-to-back 27-24 losses to the Rams and the Chiefs. Frankly, when you look at their seven wins, only those two previously mentioned stand out. Their other five wins? Carolina (twice), Denver, the Chargers and the New York Giants. Of course now everyone is trying to figure out the problems with the Buccaneers offense. Is it Tom Brady? Is it coaching? Is it the players around Brady? Is it trying to get everyone on the same page without the benefits of a full preseason program because oh that’s right we’re living through a global pandemic? Is it something else? Sometimes the simplest answer is the right one. It’s a combination of everything. Brady has not been perfect, but neither has everyone around him. The coaching could do more to get players on the same page and get opportunities for plays in the passing game. And yes, more time together probably would have helped. I do want to flag one sequence to illustrate how the coaching staff might be trying to be too cute, and it backfiring. Late in the third quarter the Buccaneers trailed by 17, but were in Kansas City territory thanks to a 34-yard run by Ronald Jones. Facing a 1st and 10 at the Chiefs’ 25-yard line, they aligned in 11 personnel against the KC 4-1-6 sub package. They ran Jones on the inside and he was stopped for a one-yard gain. Then they huddled, altered to a 13 personnel group (three tight ends) for 2nd and 9. They originally aligned with Brady under center, Jones in the backfield behind him along with tight end Cameron Brate. Then they shifted into an empty formation with Brady in the shotgun. Who are they going to confuse? It is 2nd and long, and Kansas City, knowing the situation, kept their 4-1-6 defense on the field. They blitzed, Brady tried to throw hot, and the pass was defected and intercepted. Throwing out of heavy personnel packages works in neutral game script situations, or in favorable down-and-distance situations. That gives you the chance to create favorable matchups, with running backs and tight ends on linebackers against base defensive packages. Doing it on 2nd and long down 17? You are creating mismatches for sure, just not in your favor. So, lots of things to fix. Unfortunately, time might be the biggest concern now, as it is running short.
10. Cleveland Browns (8-3. Last week: 11)
(Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports)
Moments like these it pays to have friends in high places. I consider Jeff Risdon, who guides both Lions Wire and Browns Wire, to be a dear friend. So I reached out to him for guidance this week. Why? Because in the wake of watching the Cleveland Browns improve to 8-3 with a narrow win over the Jacksonville Jaguars I figured “Browns Twitter” would be in high spirits. After all, the win kept them above the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North and in playoff contention. And yet, the fanbase seemed angry. There was frustration with the offensive play-calling. Frustration with quarterback Baker Mayfield, despite a day that saw him complete 19 of 29 passes for 258 yards and a pair of touchdowns, without an interception. As Risdon wrote: “It wasn’t particularly pretty, as is becoming the custom under Kevin Stefanski. The coach doesn’t worry about style points and his team. That’s good, because Stefanski and his team didn’t earn near enough of them in barely beating a bad Jaguars team.” The two touchdowns from Mayfield did show signs of life, as he made a pair of good leverage reads and throws for scores. First was this pass to Jarvis Landry that Mayfield put in a good spot, and thanks to an even better adjustment from Landry the Browns got on the scoreboard: https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1333115945779220480 Then there was this touchdown to Austin Hooper that came on a play-action design, some of what we expect to see from Stefanski’s offense: https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1333128470361042944 Some of the frustration with Stefanski stems from his decision to challenge a drop by rookie tight end Harrison Bryant on a play that was clearly an incompletion. Burning that timeout could have hurt the Browns on another day. Then on a critical fourth down Stefanski passed up a field goal that would have given Cleveland an 11-point lead. Instead Stefanski called for a dive play with Kareem Hunt that was stopped short, giving the Jaguars a chance to perhaps tie the game with a scoring drive of their own. Thankfully for the Browns and their fans, the two-point conversion try failed. But, a win is a win. Although as Risdon frames it, “[t]he Browns have no need to apologize for a road win, one lifting them to 8-3 on the season. But it’s a win that doesn’t engender a lot of confidence that the team is ready to compete against the few teams above them in the AFC playoff race.”
9. Los Angeles Rams (7-4. Last week: 6)
(Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports)
This was the kind of game you were worried about as a Los Angeles Rams fan. The Jared Goff “Pumpkin” game. Last week, I illustrated in a video breakdown piece how Goff has struggled with “middle-of-the-field open” coverages. Secondary schemes in the Cover 2, Cover 4, Cover 6 families. Entering Week 12, five of Goff’s eight interceptions had come against those coverages. The reason? Two-fold. First, hesitation. Second, assumption. At times Goff would assume what he was seeing on one side of the field was the same on the other. Second, the QB would sometimes hesitate, leading to late throws and chances for the defense to break on throws. As was pointed out in the piece, this has been an issue for Goff over the past few seasons. And as I wrote at the time, “[b]ut there are few teams right now without question marks, and for those who doubt the Rams, quarterback Jared Goff is the reason why.” Goff struggled on Sunday in the 23-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. He completed 19 of 31 passes for 198 yards and a pair of interceptions, for an NFL passer rating of 52.9. One of those interceptions? A Pick-Six from rookie defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw. The other came at the hands of Richard Sherman, dropping back into zone coverage technique. Now as we have seen other times before, the Rams defense was able to pick their quarterback up and respond. After the Sherman interception the defense forced a 49ers’ fumble on the next play from scrimmage. Aaron Donald also forced a fumble that led to a scoop-and-score. But the mistakes from the Rams’ offense were simply too much to overcome on this day. And at the end of the game, the Rams had two different offensive possessions to perhaps pull out the win. They punted both times. They’ll need better from their offense if they are going to win the division. And their quarterback knows it: https://twitter.com/JourdanRodrigue/status/1333212763313717248 So too does his coach: https://twitter.com/JourdanRodrigue/status/1333205868762972160
8. Indianapolis Colts (7-4. Last week: 4)
(AP Photo/AJ Mast)
This was a chance for the Indianapolis Colts to put their stamp not only on the AFC South, but on the AFC in general. With a home win Sunday against the Tennessee Titans the Colts would have swept the season series - thereby putting them in good position to secure the AFC South in the weeks ahead - but they would also have laid a claim to be one of the top teams in the AFC. Instead, Derrick Henry and the Titans ran the Colts out of the building. With DeForest Buckner among three key starters sidelined for the Colts, the defense struggled to slow down the Titans’ rushing attack. Buckner, linebacker Bobby Okereke and defensive end Denico Autry were all sidelined on Sunday. That led to a huge day for Henry, who carried the ball 27 times for 178 yards and three touchdowns. All three of those came in the first half as the Titans built a 35-14 lead at the break. The loss overshadowed a few things of note from the Colts’ offense. Philip Rivers and Trey Burton continued to grow their connection, as Rivers connected with the tight end early in the game to knot the contest at seven: https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1333114137623183360 Also, the Colts are developing Jacoby Brissett into quite the quarterback run specialist. Brissett had four carries on the day, two of which went for touchdowns. His first TD run of the afternoon tied the score at 14, before the 21-point outburst from Tennessee: https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1333119079977160709 Taysom Hill 2.0? We won’t go that far. Now the Colts have some work to do. Thankfully for them, they face the Houston Texans twice, the Las Vegas Raiders and the Jacksonville Jaguars in four of their final five games. Looming large, however, is a Week 16 trip to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers. The implications of that game could be huge.
7. Tennessee Titans (8-3. Last week: 10)
(AP Photo/AJ Mast)
In the modern mantra of “running backs don’t matter” part of the thinking to that stance is that using an early pick on the position does not make sense when you can get production from running backs picked later in the draft with smart investments along the offensive line and a well-crafted offensive system. There are exceptions to every rule, and then there is Derrick Henry. Henry was taken in the second round by the Tennessee Titans, and while it has taken some time to grow into his current role, he now is the very definition of a franchise back. Henry was huge for the Titans in their win over the Colts, scoring three touchdowns in the first half to help Tennessee build a 35-14 lead at the break. Henry finished the day with 178 yards on 27 carries and the three touchdowns. His first actually came on a swing route from Ryan Tannehill, but it went into the scoresheet as a run given that it was a backwards throw: https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1333111262247436289 Someone else who came up huge for the Titans was second-year wideout A.J. Brown. Brown caught four passes for 98 yards and this very impressive touchdown that flashed his ability after the catch: https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1333116270464573440 Brown also delivered perhaps the play of the weekend, returning an onside kick attempt for a touchdown: https://twitter.com/Titans/status/1333158382497370112 The win put the Titans back atop the AFC South, and leaves Tennessee in solid position for the December stretch run. Over their final five games they’ll see the Browns, the Jaguars, the Lions, the Packers and the Texans. Not a bad way to close out the season.
6. Seattle Seahawks (8-3. Last week: 9)
(Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)
The Seattle Seahawks have struggled on the road this season, with all three of their losses entering Monday night coming on the road. Those woes continued early against the Philadelphia Eagles. They were stopped on fourth downs on both of their first two possessions, and to add insult to injury they took a timeout before the first try to set the play, and needed to burn a timeout before the second one because time was running out. Then on their third possession of the game, they were forced to just take a delay of game penalty when the clock was running down once more. Not exactly a well-oiled machine. But then the offense got rolling. Early in the second quarter with the Seahawks facing a third down situation the Eagles defense brought the blitz. Russell Wilson was able to hang in the pocket - thanks to a great job in protection by running back Carlos Hyde - and hit D.K. Metcalf on a deep route for a huge gain: https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1333593984573218816 Then a few plays later Wilson hit David Moore on a nicely executed fake slant/fade route with Moore jabbing inside for a step and then drifting on the fade: https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1333594244854943744 Seattle tacked onto their lead on their next drive when Chris Carson delivered one of the toughest 16-yard touchdown runs you will ever see: https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1333598875450437634 Even when the Seahawks surrendered a touchdown drive to Philadelphia before halftime, they still enjoyed a 14-6 lead at the break and given that they were receiving the second-half kickoff, they were in position to extend that lead with another solid drive. The second half was all about the Seahawks defense flipping the script. Where it was the Eagles defense with two critical fourth-down stops in the first half, Seattle had two of their own in the second. Those stops, coupled with a pair of field goals, allowed the Seahawks to slowly salt away the win. Now what do the Seahawks face? Three straight winnable games, with the Giants, the Jets and Washington over the next three weeks, before they close out the year with the Rams and the 49ers in Weeks 16 and 17. A favorable path to perhaps a division title, and maybe even more.
5. Buffalo Bills (8-3. Last week: 7)
(Democrat and Chronicle)
This was perhaps the definition of an “ugly win.” The Buffalo Bills moved to 8-3 on the season thanks to a 27-17 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers. In reality, this game should not have been this close. The Bills got out to an early lead thanks to this touchdown from Josh Allen to Dawson Knox to cap off the Bills’ first drive of the game: https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1333111961190506497 This well-executed play-action play in the red zone gave the Bills an early 7-0 lead and was the ending to a crisp four-play, 63-yard drive. After some trickery in the form of a Cole Beasley touchdown pass to Gabriel Davis, the Bills had a 17-6 lead at the halftime break. The game seemed well in hand when the Bills put together a 12-play, 57-yard touchdown drive to open the second half, capped off by this touchdown run from Allen himself: https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1333137944970809345 But then, the wheels started to fall off. The Chargers scored to make it a 24-14 game, and the Bills next four possessions went as follows: Punt, Fumble, Fumble, Interception. However, what was the score when those four possessions - and the ensuing Chargers’ drives - were completed? 24-17 Buffalo. That’s right. The Chargers managed just three points in that stretch, and after Herbert was intercepted himself, rookie kicker Tyler Bass converted a 43-yard field goal to give the Bills a ten-point lead, and Buffalo held on for the win. Ugly wins count, too. The bottom line is this. The Bills have the AFC East lead by a game over the Dolphins (who they beat back in Week 2) and three games over the Patriots (who they beat back in Week 8) and as such Buffalo largely controls their own destiny. They’ll see both those teams in Weeks 16 and 17, respectively.
4. Green Bay Packers (8-3. Last week: 5)
(Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)
When the Green Bay Packers hired Matt LaFleur as their head coach, many stories were crafted debating how he would get along with quarterback Aaron Rodgers. After last year’s run to the NFC Championship Game - and what we saw Sunday night against the Chicago Bears - it might be time to put those stories to rest. LaFleur crafted a wonderful gameplan to pick apart the Chicago Bears, and Rodgers executed it as one would expect. Rodgers completed 21 of 29 passes for 211 yards and four touchdowns in Green Bay’s 41-25 win over the Bears. If you are a proponent of NFL passer rating, Rodgers’ mark of 132.3 for the week was second only to Deshaun Watson from Thursday, in another 41-25 victory. Which makes me wonder...when was the last time we saw two 41-25 scores in the same week? Back to the Packers. Rodgers was effusive in his praise of LaFleur’s gameplan after the win. “I thought it was a really good game plan executed to near perfection in the first half, which is what we needed to get off to a fast start,” Rodgers said. When the QB was asked about his own season to date, he spun the praise back to his head coach. “I think the beauty in this year is the subtleties of simplicity that I feel like Matt implemented in the offseason. It’s really allowed me to feel super-comfortable with the plan every week, with my responsibilities with my checks. I think that’s why I’ve been playing well.” Exactly what you want to hear as a Green Bay fan. What you probably do not want to hear is any discussion about the Packers’ run defense. We’ll leave that for another time.
3. New Orleans Saints (9-2. Last week: 3)
(Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)
This was simply a “take care of business” week for the New Orleans Saints. They squared off on Sunday afternoon against a Denver Broncos team that found out in the preceding 24 hours that they would be forced to elevate a practice squad receiver to play quarterback, since the four QBs on their roster would be facing the COVID-19 reserve list due to exposure to the virus. As such, it was Kendall Hinton, not Jeff Driskell...or Drew Lock...or Brett Rypien...or even Blake Bortles getting the snaps for the Broncos. As you might expect, Denver managed just 112 yards of offense and three points on the day. As for the Saints, Taysom Hill can now say he is 2-0 as a starting quarterback in the NFL, despite a passing stat line that read: 9 of 16 for 78 yards and an interception. Hill did add 44 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns. Latavius Murray also had a big day, carrying the ball 19 times for 123 yards and two scores. Honestly, the best thing you can say about this game is that it finished in under three hours. A holiday season miracle. Up next for the Saints? The Atlanta Falcons, who are coming off an impressive win over the Las Vegas Raiders. But as you look down the road for New Orleans, you can see that things are set up well for them. They get Atlanta and Philadelphia over the next two weeks, and then the Vikings and the Panthers to close out the year. All four teams currently have losing records. The one big one staring them in the face? Week 15 against the Kansas City Chiefs. That game will certainly have big implications for the postseason.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (10-1. Last week: 2)
(Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
As football fans, we remain spoiled by Patrick Mahomes. The quarterback again showed his mastery of the position on Sunday, completing 37 of 49 passes for 462 yards and three touchdowns. What stood out watching and re-watching that game was how difficult it remains to defend both Mahomes and the entire Kansas City offense. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers tried everything: Man coverage, zone coverage, blitzing, dropping eight, sub packages, base packages, and nothing worked. Mahomes always found the open man in the concept and if one was not open, he made one come open, either with his eyes or with a throw. Take his third touchdown connection with Tyreek Hill: https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1333189852938964992 This is Cover-1 down in the red zone. Cornerback Carlton Davis plays this pretty well, and Mahomes still beats the coverage by throwing this vertical route on a line and into a “shoebox” as Gus Johnson would say. How do you stop that? On the other side of the ball, the Chiefs defense did allow 17 second half points, including two fourth quarter touchdown passes from Tom Brady, to allow Tampa Bay to climb back into the game. But when your offense puts up 27 through three quarters, usually that will be enough to win. Especially if you have Mahomes on your side.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-0. Week 12 Game Pending. Last week: 1)
(Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports)
What a mess, still. As was outlined during our discussion of the Baltimore Ravens, this game was originally slated to be played on Thursday night. First it was a COVID-19 outbreak in Baltimore’s locker room that caused the game to be pushed back to Sunday, and then players with the Pittsburgh Steelers started testing positive for the condition. After placing Jerald Hawkins, Stephon Tuitt and Isaiah Buggs on the COVID/Reserve list on Friday, running back James Conner and special teams coach Danny Smith also tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend. This game, whenever it kicks off, gives the Steelers the chance to inch closer to the top overall seed in the AFC come playoff time, while potentially throwing a huge wrinkle in Baltimore’s chances to even qualify for the playoffs. Not that Baltimore-Pittsburgh games need any extra spice, but that certainly adds another layer to this incredible matchup. The Touchdown Wire Power Rankings will be updated when this game is over, whenever that is.