This weekend provided another glimpse into what we might see come January. We even saw the first team officially eliminated from playoff contention: the Cincinnati Bengals, who are out after only 11 weeks (the earliest of any team since 2002).
Every week from here on out is a moving weekend, with teams going up or down in the playoff standings. Teams rarely stay stagnant unless they’re on a bye during this time of the season, like the Packers and Seahawks were this week.
So let us review where teams stand now that Week 11 is complete.
AFC Stock Up
Last week, I wrote about the major flaw of each top AFC contender. Some of that was on display this week, and some of it wasn’t.
Look, I admit I was not a fan of this offense. I wrote about it this offseason, and I’m still not sure the offense will last in the NFL. But, it’s working at a high level now, which is all that matters.
The Ravens have the look of a Super Bowl team. They don’t ever beat themselves. Luck is working for them. They don’t turn it over. They rarely commit stupid penalties. They make few, if any, mental errors. They’re always prepared and play with energy every snap.
Also, their offense is kicking the shit out of everyone else. Lamar Jackson can’t be tackled and their passing game, while not being complicated, seems to be unstoppable with all the running the Ravens do.
But the biggest reason their stock is rising is their defense. The defense had to replace multiple starters heading into this season. As I expected, they started slow but have come on strong lately. The Texans have an above-average offense and they got nothing Sunday in the Ravens’ 41-7 win. They couldn’t block and couldn’t run the ball. Nothing.
Right now, the Ravens are the most complete team in the NFL.
Their offense seems to do just enough each week. It was clear the Patriots’ gameplan in Philadelphia was designed with a lack of trust in their offensive line to battle with the Eagles’ excellent defensive line.
They were tons of screens and quick passes. They put themselves in third-and-long situations all first half. Then, New England opened up the second half, went up tempo, and controlled the rest of the game. The offense only scored eight points, but it was enough to hold off the Eagles because the defense is back.
Everyone couldn’t wait to bury the Patriots’ defense after a subpar performance against the Ravens, but they looked very elite again in Week 11. They completely shut down the Eagles’ offense after a quick 10 points for them to start the game. They harassed Carson Wentz and remained physical in the run game.
They aren’t first on this list, because I think the Ravens are playing better than them, but the Patriots still own the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
The Chiefs beat the Chargers in Mexico City. That got them back to their winning wins and helped to restore order in the AFC West.
The Raiders only beat the Bengals 17-10. It wasn’t pretty, but they got it done and still remain near a playoff spot. They are close to a wild card spot, and still have a shot at the AFC West title.
Oakland’s schedule allows the team to determine its own destiny too. The Raiders still play the Chiefs, plus the Jets, Broncos, Chargers, Jaguars, and Titans. Their schedule is set up for a playoff appearance if they handle their business. Of course, it won’t be that simple, but their stock is up because they are still in the hunt.
I thought the Dolphins might steal this game but alas, I was wrong. The Bills won easily, which is important. They are still in the wild card race, with a tougher schedule down the stretch, including games against the Cowboys, Patriots, Ravens, and Steelers. The Bills need to keep up with the Patriots in the division and the other potential wild card teams.
AFC Stock Down
1. Houston Texans
Yikes. Not only did the Texans look awful against the Ravens, but they got physically dominated in this game. That was my biggest issue with the Texans’ loss. Teams are going to lose stinker games, but they lost the battle in the trenches. The Ravens’ pass rush hasn’t been elite this season, but it was Sunday.
The Texans’ rushing defense was gashed, which is expected at times against the Ravens, but it seemed liked they got beat up.
My lasting takeaway from this game will be the coaching mismatch: the Texans off a bye didn’t do anything. They also beat themselves with penalties and weird turnovers.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
I needed to include them on this list because they had a real shot to sneak into the wild card with their schedule. I was starting to buy into the hype, but after seeing Mason Rudolph on Thursday night, I’m way out on them. They aren’t good enough at the quarterback position to win games when their defense and rushing game aren’t working.
NFC Stock Up
The entire conference is trending upward. There are five NFC teams with at least eight wins for the first time in this era of football.
Let’s see who helped and hurt themselves this week:
Was their win against the Cardinals pretty? No, it wasn’t. But, they won and still have a one-game lead for the No. 1 seed in the NFC. I liked how they used the pass game Sunday, something we had been waiting to see.
This week, they were the Saints we expected after that weird loss last week to the suddenly resurgent Atlanta Falcons. The offense looked complete again and their defense was back to their ways. They harassed Jameis Winston and stopped the run.
New Orleans also forced four turnovers and kept the Bucs off balance. The Saints get the 49ers in three weeks in the Superdome, and that game could be for the NFC’s top seed.
I guess their stock is up after winning an ugly game against the Bears, if only because they are still alive in the NFC wild card hunt. But I don’t see it with this team at all. The Rams aren’t explosive enough on offense to compete in the NFC West, and they still have games against the 49ers, Cowboys, Ravens, and Seahawks.
NFC stock down
I know they won Sunday, but I can’t trust them week to week. That’s why I have their stock down a bit. You can’t be down at home 20-0 to the Broncos and have your stock go up. If not for the Broncos going into a shell in the second half, the Vikings don’t win that game. The Broncos had the ball inside the 20 with a chance to win at the end, too. There’s not much more to say.
The Vikings’ numbers on offense and defense are good, so I can’t argue against any of that. This is just my gut.
2. Dallas Cowboys
Just like the Vikings, the Cowboys won this week, but their defense isn’t good enough to make a deep playoff run. Dak Prescott is playing outstanding and it’s going to be overlooked because of their lack of big-time wins and slow starts each week.
The Cowboys continue to allow teams to stick around, just as they did with the Lions (who were without Matthew Stafford). Also, I don’t believe in Jason Garrett. Think about their talent around the roster: QB, RB, OL, DL, LB, and C are all above average and yet, they always start slow and have issues against the better teams they play.
Still, they will probably win the NFC East, because if I can’t trust the Cowboys, I surely can’t trust this next team.
3. Philadelphia Eagles
What do we make of them? Really, what am I supposed to say? They are good at some positions and awful at others. Carson Wentz looks awesome one drive and then not so much on the next. They are the definition of average.
As a refresher, here’s what the playoff standings look like after Week 11
- New England Patriots (9-1)
- Baltimore Ravens (8-2)
- Kansas City Chiefs (7-4)
- Indianapolis Colts (6-4)
- Buffalo Bills (7-3)
- Houston Texans (6-4)
- San Francisco 49ers (9-1)
- Green Bay Packers (8-2)
- New Orleans Saints (8-2)
- Dallas Cowboys (6-4)
- Seattle Seahawks (8-2)
- Minnesota Vikings (8-3)