NFL Power Rankings: Thanksgiving Edition

Date: November 23, 2017

By: Dalton Allison

10. Detroit Lions- If the Lions want to make it to the postseason, it will have to be on the shoulders of quarterback Matthew Stafford. In their victory over the Chicago Bears, Stafford threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns. He was highly efficient in doing so, posting a QBR of 72.8. To demonstrate how valuable Stafford is to the success of the Lions, one just needs to look at his completion percentage in their wins versus their losses. In wins, Stafford's completion percentage is 69.4%. In losses however, Stafford comes in at over ten points lower, at 56.5%. Although it is late in the season, establishing an actual rushing game would be beneficial in taking some of the pressure off of Matthew Stafford.

9. Jacksonville Jaguars- The Jaguars didn't have to try very hard to beat the lowly Cleveland Browns. All they did was put consistent pressure on DeShone Kizer, and they found success. They sacked Kizer five times for 45 yards, and forced him to commit four turnovers. Leonard Fournette ran for 128 yards, and Blake Bortles even threw for a touchdown. At 7-3, this team has a strong command over the AFC South division. They are built on grit through the running game and on defense, which covers Bortles' mediocracy at quarterback. As long as they continue to hide their quarterback, they should easily have the division wrapped up.

8. Seattle Seahawks- Injuries amongst the defense of the Seahawks has decimated what was once known as the "Legion of Boom." Matt Ryan played a seamless game on the once renowned defense, and they looked like of shell of their pre-injury selves. What the Seahawks do have going for them is Russell Wilson, who produced nearly all of the offense for the Seahawks on Monday night. Wilson was again the leading rusher for Seattle, racking up 86 yards and a touchdown. In addition to his work on the ground, Wilson also threw for 258 yards and two touchdowns. With no run game and a weakened defense, this team is looking more and more like a wild card competitor than a challenger to the L.A. Rams for NFC West supremacy.

7. Carolina Panthers- Behind a stingy defense and a rejuvenated Cam Newton, the Panthers have played a winning brand of football this season. The defense, which ranks fifth in points against, has been playing at an elite level despite flying under the radar a bit. Luke Kuechly is the leading tackler on the Panthers with 71, as well as leading the team in interceptions with three. Another key component of the defense is Julius Peppers, who is defying age in his 16th NFL season. Peppers leads the team in sacks, with 7.5. Possible the biggest reason to the turnaround of the Panthers this season is the play of Cam Newton, who has showed flashes of his 2015 MVP self.

6. Minnesota Vikings- We already knew that the Vikings had a scary offensive combination with Adam Thielen and Case Keenum. The defense of the Vikings showed their true muscle against Jared Goff and the Rams' young, upstart offense. They held Todd Gurley to a touchdown and 37 yards on the ground, and did not allow Goff to throw a touchdown. Latavius Murray was a force on the ground for the Vikings, racking up 95 yards and two touchdowns. After many of their high valued players fell due to injury, the Vikings knew that they would have to win with grit. Coach Mike Zimmer preaches this to his players, and it has the Vikings as NFC North front-runners.

5. L.A. Rams- The Rams have become very dependent upon Todd Gurley to be the centerpiece of their offensive attack. In losses, Gurley averages only 3.7 yards on the ground, but in wins he averages almost a yard more with 4.4 yards. With this difference may seem minute, every inch adds up in the game of football. This of course has an adverse effect on his quarterback, Jared Goff. When the offense is reliant on Goff, he is much less effective. He has thrown for only one touchdown in the three losses the Rams have suffered. The key to this team being successful is to pave a path for Gurley to run, and add Goff in to supplement the offense.

4. New Orleans Saints- For a second against the Redskins, things were a little too close for comfort for Drew Brees and his Saints. In fact, they had to score 18 points in the fourth quarter to simply push the game to overtime. While the defense that has been the center point of the way the Saints have been playing this year allowed 31 points in a shaky effort, the normal cast of characters pulled through on offense for the Saints. Brees tossed a mighty 385 yards and two touchdowns, while Mark Ingram rushed for 134 yards and a touchdown. This team looks to have the determination to win games any way that they need to come out on top, which will serve them well in the postseason.

3. New England Patriots- South of the border, we knew that Tom Brady would light up the defense of the Oakland Raiders. What we didn't know was that the defense of the Patriots would hold the Raiders to only eight points. Patrick Chung led the defense with nine tackles, and Duron Harmon even picked Derek Carr off once. Brandin Cooks had a huge game, putting up 149 receiving yards and a touchdown. It is apparent that slow starts don't affect the Patriots, since they are 6-0 since starting the season at 2-2.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers- Is there any better duo in the NFL then Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger? Brown received 144 of Roethlisberger's 299 yards in the air, and caught three of his four touchdown passes. For the Steelers, as long as two out of the three killer B's are having a good day, there may be no defense that is able to stop them in the entirety of the NFL. The defense forced Marcus Mariota to make challenging throws, which is always a recipe for disaster. The Titans quarterback threw four interceptions, one being returned by Sean Davis for 41 yards. The Steelers are the best team in the AFC, and it will be a matter of when, not if, they clinch their division.

1. Philadelphia Eagles- For the first half of their divisional clash against the Dallas Cowboys, the Eagles seemed to be struggling on offense. They righted that ship quickly in the second half, putting up 30 points against the Cowboys. With the win over Dallas, the Eagles virtually sealed the NFC East division crown. Wentz was a machine as usual, and the use of both Jay Ajayi and LeGarret Blount completely ripped apart a strong defensive line. At this point, no one has an answer to stop the Eagles, and their schedule isn't exactly hard moving forward. They face only two more opponents that are currently over .500 for the rest of the season.

 

Dalton Allison can be reached at dalton.allison@student.shu.edu.

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