Jesse Pantuosco

Power Rankings

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Week 14 Power Rankings

Wednesday, December 6, 2017


Much as I may have wanted to, I have never played a down of football at any level, unless you count intramural flag football or two-hand touch at recess. One look at me and you’d probably see why that’s the case, but some days I’m glad I stuck to track and soccer throughout my youth. Monday was one of those days.

 

Monday’s grudge match between the Steelers and Bengals—and when I say grudge match, I really mean it—was barely a football game. It was more like anarchy, a cheap shot festival of horrifying proportions. Even Jon Gruden, the biggest football fan there is, couldn’t defend it. “It’s bad for football,” he said after the game. “Let’s just hope a lot of these men are able to get up tomorrow morning and move on with life. But some of this stuff got out of hand tonight. It’s very disgusting and disturbing.”

 

One day after the usually even-tempered Rob Gronkowski delivered a brutal hit on an unsuspecting Tre’Davious White, JuJu Smith-Schuster followed suit by decking Vontaze Burfict on a vicious blind-side block. It was an out-of-character display for JuJu, who made a bad situation worse by taunting Burfict after the play. The Bengals were quick to retaliate as George Iloka leveled Antonio Brown with a senseless helmet-to-helmet hit, though Brown somehow managed to hold on for his league-leading ninth touchdown.

 

It’s probably no coincidence that JuJu targeted Burfict, a reckless player who once delivered an ugly hit that left Brown concussed. While Smith-Schuster issued an apology in his post-game remarks on Monday night, Brown was heard shouting “karma” in the background, seemingly celebrating Burfict’s injury. Burfict has done a lot wrong in his career and obviously has a turbulent history with Brown, but no one should ever gloat over another player’s injury, especially something as grave and life-altering as a concussion. That’s mean-spirited, bordering on evil. Smith-Schuster was suspended and rightfully so, even if the ban didn’t sit well with teammate Mike Mitchell.

 

On a night that featured 11 personal fouls, countless injuries (Joe Mixon and Adam Jones were among the walking wounded) and literally hundreds of yards worth of penalties, the game’s scariest moment came when Ryan Shazier fell to the ground after leading with his helmet on a first-quarter tackle attempt. An eerie silence fell over Paul Brown Stadium as Shazier was loaded into the cart, unable to move his legs. Shazier was later diagnosed with a spinal contusion, which was actually a mild relief given how bad the injury looked on television. Shazier’s parents were flown in on a private jet to be with their son, who remains in a Cincinnati hospital, while Andy Dalton and others prayed for him after the game.

 

Ben Roethlisberger dismissed the physicality as “AFC North football,” but is the logo on the other team’s helmet really an excuse for Monday night’s carnage? Football is an inherently violent sport played by massive, dangerously strong men running full speed at each other with rock-hard helmets on their heads. Players are going to get hurt. CTE is no longer a secret.

 

I think ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Tim Hasselbeck put it best when he asked, “Is it worth it?” That’s a question for later but in the present, we’re left to pick up the pieces from one of the most unsettling sporting events, NFL or otherwise, in recent memory.

 

Now let’s dive into the Power Rankings, where the surging Patriots have dethroned the Eagles at No. 1.

 

 

1. New England Patriots

 

Record: 10-2

 

Last Week: 2

 

Interesting week for the Pats. Rob Gronkowski got suspended for giving Tre’Davious White The People’s Elbow while Angry Tom resurfaced with another one of his patented sideline freak-outs. That’s a lot of pent-up rage for a team that just won its eighth straight. Rex Burkhead scored twice in Sunday’s win, giving him four touchdowns over his last two games. That’s as many TDs as he scored during his entire four-year tenure with Cincinnati.   

 

2. Philadelphia Eagles

 

Record: 10-2

 

Last Week: 1

 

Carson Wentz threw for a season-high 348 yards Sunday against Seattle but it wasn’t enough as the Eagles waved goodbye to their nine-game winning streak. Nelson Agholor scored Philadelphia’s lone touchdown in the game while finishing with a career-high 141 yards. That’s more yards than Agholor had in his previous five games combined. LeGarrette Blount’s eight carries Sunday were his fewest since Week 2.

 

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3. Minnesota Vikings

 

Record: 10-2

 

Last Week: 4

 

Case Keenum had more than enough juice to beat the Falcons on Sunday, guiding the Vikings with 227 yards and two touchdowns including one to tight end Kyle Rudolph. Three of Rudolph’s six touchdowns this year have come in his last two outings. Even with Desmond Trufant missing for Atlanta, Stefon Diggs was held under 40 yards for the fourth time in his last six games. He’s struggled to just 39.2 yards per game during that span.

 

4. Pittsburgh Steelers

 

Record: 10-2

 

Last Week: 3

 

You thought a sprained toe would slow down Antonio Brown? Yeah, right. AB was lethal as ever in Monday night’s win, burying the Bengals with eight catches for 101 yards and a touchdown. Already a shoe-in for Canton, Brown’s 569 catches since 2013 are the most ever over a five-year span. Chris Boswell seems to have the clutch gene. He’s booted walk-off field goals in three of his last four outings including a 38-yarder to seal the game in Week 13.

 

5. Los Angeles Rams

 

Record: 9-3

 

Last Week: 5

 

Todd Gurley did it all in Week 13, leading Los Angeles in both rushing (74) and receiving yards (84) while topping 100 yards from scrimmage for the ninth time in 12 games. Among running backs, only Alvin Kamara has put up more receiving yards than Gurley this year. Consider this: the Rams are a perfect 5-0 when Sammy Watkins scores a touchdown compared to only 4-3 when he doesn’t. Luckily for L.A., Watkins has visited the end zone in four of his last five games including Sunday’s win at Arizona.

 

6. New Orleans Saints

 

Record: 9-3

 

Last Week: 6

 

Talk about a one-two punch. Mark Ingram and likely Rookie of the Year Alvin Kamara combined for an absurd 248 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns Sunday in a win over Carolina. Kamara has been impossibly hot for New Orleans, averaging a patently ridiculous 132.7 yards from scrimmage throughout his six-game touchdown streak. Michael Thomas’ touchdown on Sunday was his first since Week 4.

 

7. Seattle Seahawks

 

Record: 8-4

 

Last Week: 9

 

Mike Davis dominated Seattle’s backfield work in Week 13, logging 45 snaps compared to just nine for J.D. McKissic and three for Eddie Lacy. That was Davis’ first game back after sitting out Week 12 with a groin injury. Russell Wilson bolstered his MVP credentials with an outrageous game Sunday against the Eagles, cutting loose for three touchdowns including one to Jimmy Graham, who is now tied for the league lead in that category.

 

8. Jacksonville Jaguars

 

Record: 8-4

 

Last Week: 10

 

Dede Westbrook had his best game yet in Week 13, ripping the Colts for a career-best 78 yards on six catches. Marqise Lee also had a productive week, setting a new season-high with 86 yards while visiting the end zone for the third time in five games. In beating Indianapolis, Jacksonville clinched its first non-losing season since 2010. This calls for a celebratory bologna sandwich, with extra mustard. 

 

9. Carolina Panthers

 

Record: 8-4

 

Last Week: 7

 

I call Cam Newton Lieutenant Dan, because he has magic legs. He’s averaged 65 rushing yards over his last four contests and now leads all quarterbacks with 515 yards on 89 carries. The Panthers sat Greg Olsen (foot) as a precaution on Sunday, but he should be back when Carolina hosts the Vikings in Week 14. Christian McCaffrey is tied for the league lead among running backs with four receiving touchdowns including one in Sunday’s loss to New Orleans.

 

10. Los Angeles Chargers

 

Record: 6-6

 

Last Week: 11

 

What a run it’s been for the Chargers, who have won six of their last eight games after starting the year 0-4. Keenan Allen etched his name in the record books Sunday by becoming the first player in NFL history to record at least 10 catches, 100 yards and a touchdown in three straight games. He’s already matched a career-high with 77 catches and is 15 yards shy of setting a new career-high in receiving yards. Hunter Henry has recovered from a midseason slump, emerging from the abyss with 12 catches for 157 yards over his last two outings.

 

11. Atlanta Falcons

 

Record: 7-5

 

Last Week: 8

 

Julio Jones was quieted by Xavier Rhodes on Sunday, managing two catches for a season-low 24 yards in a loss to Minnesota. That came on the heels of a 253-yard outburst against the Bucs in Week 12. Devonta Freeman didn’t miss a beat in his return from a concussion, leading the Falcons with 81 yards on 13 touches. He’ll take a six-game touchdown drought into Week 14.

 

12. Tennessee Titans

 

Record: 8-4

 

Last Week: 12

 

Marcus Mariota has looked flummoxed without top receiver Rishard Matthews, managing just 334 yards with two interceptions during Matthews’ two-game absence. How’s this for consistency? Delanie Walker has totaled EXACTLY 63 yards in four of his last six games. Among tight ends, only Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce have put up more yards than Walker this year.

 

13. Baltimore Ravens

 

Record: 7-5

 

Last Week: 15

 

Alex Collins began this year on the Ravens’ practice squad. Now he’s a weekly starter across all fantasy formats. Collins extended his touchdown streak to three in Sunday’s win over the Lions, though recurring migraines have clouded his status for Week 14. Mike Wallace let it rip with 116 receiving yards on Sunday, his most since Week 5 when he went for 133 yards in a win over Oakland.

 

14. Dallas Cowboys

 

Record: 6-6

 

Last Week: 18

 

The Cowboys erased their three-game losing streak by feeding Alfred Morris, who broke out for 127 yards on 27 carries Thursday against his former team, the Redskins. Dez Bryant ended his five-game touchdown drought in style, climbing the ladder for this masterpiece. DeMarcus Lawrence’s 13.5 sacks are the most by a Cowboy since DeMarcus Ware recorded 19.5 takedowns in 2011.

 

15. Oakland Raiders

 

Record: 6-6

 

Last Week: 19

 

Marshawn Lynch had his best game as a Raider in Week 13, rushing for a season-high 101 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. Lynch’s reward for a job well done? He had to submit a “random” urine sample (Lynch calls it by a different name) after the game. With Michael Crabtree (suspended) and Amari Cooper (concussion/high-ankle sprain) both sidelined, Cordarrelle Patterson snagged four catches for a season-high 97 yards as the Raiders made quick work of the hapless Giants.

 

16. Green Bay Packers

 

Record: 6-6

 

Last Week: 21

 

Aaron Jones only saw one carry against the Buccaneers but made sure it was a good one, taking it 20 yards for the game-winning touchdown in overtime. Jamaal Williams had another big week, leading the Packers’ backfield with 113 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. He’s cleared 100 yards from scrimmage in back-to-back games while emerging as an every-week starter in fantasy. Brett Hundley face-planted on Sunday (13-for-22, 84 yards, one interception) but help is on the way with Aaron Rodgers (I.R., collarbone) expected back in Week 15.

 


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Jesse Pantuosco is a football and baseball writer for Rotoworld. He has won three Fantasy Sports Writers Association Awards. Follow him on Twitter @JessePantuosco.
Email :Jesse Pantuosco



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