Week 11 NFL Power Rankings - Risers and Fallers (11/14/17)
The Patriots only needed 61 game seconds to jump out to a 14-3 lead at Denver Sunday night. First, their punt coverage special teams recovered a fumble inside the Broncos' 25-yard line, which led to a touchdown two plays later. After a Denver field goal, Dion Lewis returned the ensuing kickoff 103 yards for the team's second score. It's 14-3 on 24 yards of offense and didn't end there.
Early in the second quarter, the Pats special teams blocked a punt, which led to another three points. In 2 minutes and 57 seconds of game time, New England's offense produced 44 yards and scored 13 points, while Lewis' return chipped in another seven.
Turnovers and special teams are how the Patriots can allow a Brock Osweiler-led offense to average 5.6 yards per play and still blow them out. Despite winning seven of their last eight, a leaky defense forces No. 2 New England to look up at the Philadelphia Eagles in our Week 11 NFL Power Rankings. It's only fair, considering the Eagles defense held an Osweiler-led offense to 3.8 yards per play two weeks ago.
All due credit to the Los Angeles Rams who jumped five spots to crack the top three after a convincing 33-7 win over the depleted Houston Texans, but three teams out of the NFC South deserve some attention as the division rises once again. The Saints, Falcons and Panthers all rank inside out Top 10 this week.
After allowing 28.4 points per game last season, the Saints defense has held opposing teams to 18.3 this season. It's the first time their points allowed average has been below 20.0 since 2013. New Orleans allowed 21.3 points per game during its 2009 Super Bowl season.
In addition to boasting the fifth-best scoring defense, the offense – known for its pass-heavy assault – has embraced a balanced offense once again. Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara lead the third-ranked rushing offense at 142.2 yards per game. Back in 2009, Pierre Thomas, Mike Bell and Reggie Bush led a rushing attack that averaged 131.6 yards per game with 21 rushing touchdowns. Despite the balance, Drew Brees still averages 266 pass yards per game – seventh among quarterbacks. However, after tossing 10 touchdowns the first five games, the Saints quarterback only has three pass TD's in his last four games.
They caught Dallas at the right time with Zeke suspended, Sean Lee sidelined and a second-string offensive lineman unable to contain Adrian Clayborn, but at some point, the Falcons' season-to-date statistical resume will hold up no matter the match-up.
Through 10 weeks, Atlanta remains one of only four teams to average better than six yards per play on offense. Over their past three games, they've held opposing offenses to 15.6 points per and 4.7 yards per play – seventh-best in the NFL.
With Devonta Freeman (concussion) doubtful for Week 11 at Seattle, it'll be interesting to see if the Falcons can maintain their per play clip with Tevin Coleman as the lead back. He rushed 20 times for 83 yards (4.2 YPR) with a touchdown against the Cowboys.
Jonathan Stewart averaged 43.8 rush yards per game with three lost fumbles through the first nine games of the season. So, when the 30-year-old running back racks up 110 yards on 17 carries against the Dolphins on Monday night, I'm skeptical that J-Stew's breakout is a sign of things to come and more likely to accept the fact that Miami just isn't very good.
Despite this, the Panthers have won three straight games and Carolina is rolling behind a happy Cam Newton who is (finally) running the football. After a trial run of “protecting their quarterback” after offseason shoulder surgery, Newton has averaged nine carries for 69.2 rush yards per game over the past five contests.
As a whole, the offense is averaging 5.7 yards per play over their past three (compared to 5.1 for season) and about to get Greg Olsen back from injury. Now, combine that with a defense which has held the opposition to 18.3 points per game over the past six contests and the Saints have some work to do if they want to lock up the NFC South.
It took a 10-point rally and last-second field goal for Pittsburgh to snap a three-game losing streak coming off a BYE week. After failing to cover the 10.5-points at Indianapolis, the Steelers are 1-6 against the spread coming out of the BYE the past seven years.
On the season, Pittsburgh remains fourth in yards allowed per play (4.8). However, in their past three games, it has jumped to 5.3 YAPP, which ranks 18th in the league. Despite a high volume of carries, Le'Veon Bell is averaging less than 3.4 yards per attempt in the past three games.
After 12 more penalties for 108 yards in Week 10, the Seahawks have now lost 1,278 yards – 780 on offense – this season. That's nearly 1.5 football fields of lost yardage due to penalties each game.
With no semblance of a rushing game due to inferior line play, Russell Wilson running for his life every other play and now Richard Sherman out for the season with a torn Achilles' heel, Seattle must find a way to stop shooting themselves in the foot. Five of the remaining seven teams on their schedule are over .500 and they have to travel to Jacksonville and Dallas the week Ezekiel Elliott is scheduled to return from suspension.
The Redskins are 2-4 in the six games since its defense held the Oakland Raiders to 128 total yards. Over the same stretch, the defense has allowed 381 yards and 28.6 points per game.
As for the offense, it's per play average has dipped to 4.8 yards the past three games compared to 5.5 for the season. Kirk Cousins only has two touchdowns passes over the same stretch after averaging two per game the first six contests.