A Newbie’s Guide to Playing Fantasy Football

Fantasy football can be enigmatic, even to players who have been doing it for a few years. Playing fantasy football well does take skill, but a lot of success is just pure luck. The NFL only has 17 games a season, compared with 82 for the NBA or NHL, and 162 for MLB. Because of that, fantasy football is subject to more severe year-to-year deviations.

Yet, within those seemingly random deviations, one can figure out patterns that emerge. While these tips won’t help new players dominate right away, they will be able to keep their heads above water against more experienced players.

It is also important to note that these are guidelines. A player that is good enough will be someone a player can buck the trend with. For now, though, a new player should memorize these five concepts.

No QBs in the first round

New players come into fantasy football thinking that if quarterbacks score the most fantasy points, why aren’t they the first to go off the board?

Of course, the answer to that question is simple, but not intuitive for the beginner. Quarterbacks do score the most fantasy points, but they’re a better value later on in the draft. After the top five or so, quarterbacks score about the same amount of points all the way down to 25th. In other words, you can have someone like Kirk Cousins or Jimmy Garoppolo and score decently.

Other positions, like running back, are hard to come by. After the top five backs, the talent level drops off significantly. This increases the importance of getting a top-tier back early on. Hence, running backs are a better target than quarterbacks or receivers in the first couple of rounds.

There are exceptions, though, as Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen may be worth a first-round pick, especially in leagues that have 14 teams or more.

No QBs that are 35 or older

Older players in general are a gamble. Even though they’re a known quantity, the quality of play they offer can drop off at any time. Worse off, a player’s quality will drop off much faster the older a player is.

Picking a quarterback aged 35 or older is a slot machine to avoid. Even with players like Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, talent could fall off very quickly and without warning. Stick to QBs that haven’t gotten that old, yet.

An example of this is Peyton Manning’s twilight years. In 2014, Peyton Manning was QB4 and showed only modest signs of decline. By 2015, though, Manning had fallen off the face of the Earth. His arm and neck had given in, and he would have to be relieved by Brock Osweiller. This led to him going from QB4 to QB34.

The reason why this happens is easy to understand. Schematically, a coach will plan around his player’s weaknesses. At first, this looks like a subtle game plan change. Yet, as arm strength and touch continue to fade, the coach cannot run the same plays or offense anymore. This puts a team at a crossroads; either play like the older QB is used to and risk him losing the game, or play differently.

Most coaches will dance with the one that brought them, though.

Grab the youngest back possible early on

Running backs fall off very, very quickly. By their late 20s, most backs are washed, and picking them up is a recipe for disaster. PFF recommends that dynasty fantasy football players trade any back over the age of 25. The position is brutal on a back’s body, and moderating their touches must be done the older they get.

Hence, go with the youngest back possible who can still be a quality starter, and do it early. It seems odd to pick a rookie or a second-year player, given they haven’t proven themselves yet. But, running backs are fairly easy to project even before they play a down.

For example, Saquon Barkley is a perfect case study, as it was obvious he was going to be special. As a rookie in 2018, he ran for over 1,300 yards and got into the end zone 11 times. By 2021, though, he ran for only 593 yards and two touchdowns. Players who drafted Barkley in 2018 came out much better than players who drafted him in 2021. At 25, his peak looks to already be well past.

If one can find a back that is projected high and is under 25, that is the best course of action. Avoid picking anyone over 27, though, like the plague.

Kickers can be worth a 10th or 11th round selection

Nerds would call the kicker position a market inefficiency. Kickers are often overlooked in fantasy football, as it isn’t the sexiest position, and they can be erratic from week to week.

However, a top-five kicker is worth a high-end double-digit round draft slot. In 2021, the top five kickers averaged 9.7 fantasy points per contest. That point total is equivalent to the 25th ranked running back, or a top 15 receiver. This is also a guaranteed starting position, too, so it will deliver production nearly every week.

Kickers are also age-resistant, so don’t feel hesitant to draft 37-year-old Nick Folk with an 11th or 12 round pick, if you can.

Do not pick anyone with any consistent injury history. Ever.

This is arguably the most important thing to learn.

Injuries are common in football. When we talk about injury history, we aren’t talking about the minor bruises and sprains that a player can play with. Instead, if a player has any sort of injury history that has kept him off the field more than one time, pass on him. Even if that player is Christian McCaffery, taking him is going to open a novice up to the variance that can demolish new players.

But, players should also give lesser priority to players that have been hurt seriously just one time. These players don’t have to be avoided outright, but avoiding them if possible is a prudent decision.

While these tips are not going to help a newbie win their fantasy league in year one, they are useful pitfalls to avoid early on. Ultimately, these tips can help someone playing fantasy football gain skills in it for the future, and be a building block to winning something down the road.

How Will The Packers Approach The Draft?

Packers NFL Draft
Photo Credit: Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the 2022 NFL draft coming up in April there are two ways in which Packers GM Brian Gutekunst may approach it.

But first, let’s establish some facts. Gutekunst has drafted 37 players in his time as GM since 2018. There was a pattern to his first three drafts.

The Packers NFL Draft Approach in 2018-2020

As some Packers fans know, there was a draft pattern that developed over his first three drafts from 2018-2020. 22 out of 25 picks had RAS (Relative Athletic Score) scores of 8.0 or higher. A number of high-profile Packer bloggers caught on to that and mentioned it in their writings.

With that being said, let’s preface this before people start freaking out about RAS. This is not to say the Packers are going on http://ras.football, typing a player’s name in, and if their score was over 8 they put him on their board. The Packers have their own draft methods that none of us are privy to. But that pattern does show there is something similar they are looking for in players: athleticism and RAS.

What is RAS?

Each player gets a number assigned to them after they do all their workouts at the NFL Combine or their pro day. All their workout numbers are put into a formula and it comes up with a number. It is a 0-10 number. It is a scale of how athletic that player is in relation to his peers at his position. A 10, of course, would be the elite of the elite athlete, and a 0 would be a very poor athlete.

Another fact to establish: Does Brian Gutekunst and the front office / scouts know what RAS is?

Most definitely. It would be naïve to think they didn’t. Teams have been known to purchase draft guides. Teams also will interview a prospect’s elementary school teacher. The draft is a huge investment for teams. They want to get as much information as possible to eliminate as many mistakes as they can. Also, the creator of RAS, Kent Lee Platte, has stated he has had NFL scouts contact him before. So teams do know about it.

What happened in 2021?

Packers 2021 NFL Draft Class RAS (source: ras.footall)

If we look at the 2021 draft, it seems like there was a bit of a switch in the Packers’ philosophy. Out of the seven picks who had RAS scores, only three scored an 8.0 or higher. Tedarrell Slaton was close with a 7.96. Even if we include him, that is four out of seven. A bit of a departure from previous years. So the question becomes “what happened?” Was there a major switch in how the front office approaches the draft?

The answer is no. The old saying applies here “A leopard can not change its spots.” Gutekunst, and the vast majority of the scouts, hail from the Ted Thompson / Ron Wolf tree. If you go back and look, Thompson and Wolf valued athletes. So then what happened?

The answer

The 2021 draft was a continuation of their “all-in approach.” If you look at a number of the players drafted in ’21, they are guys with a lot of experience. Guys with a high floor. Guys who could fill certain roles, but maybe didn’t have the athletic upside of previous draft picks — but also didn’t have the same ‘bust potential’. Let’s talk about some examples:

Josh Myers:

The Packers drafted him over the more highly thought of Creed Humphrey. The same one who scored a 10 on the RAS scale and was thought to be the #1 center in the draft. Many wondered why. The reason?

Higher floor and experience in the same zone-blocking scheme the Packers run. Humphrey played in a man scheme. So the Packers valued Josh Myers’ NFL zone-blocking readiness to Humphrey’s potential, even though he scored out as a lesser athlete.

Amari Rodgers:

Amari Rodgers tested out pretty average. Which seemed weird, since all the wide receivers Gutey had drafted before all scored over 8 on the RAS scale. The Packers also traded up for him. Nico Collins and Anthony Schwartz were still on the board. So then, why did they draft someone so different from previous receivers?

Similar reasons to Myers. He had a lot of experience at a big program and could fill a very specific role, even if his athletic limitations put a damper on his upside. He could return punts and play slot. Cobb wasn’t on the roster at the time, and they wanted someone to come in and fill that role as a rookie.

Shemar Jean-Charles:

Shemar Jean-Charles was another “all-in” pick, even though he tested out below average in athleticism and was a bit on the small side for their usual defensive back picks at 184 pounds (they usually draft guys 190+). There were guys who scored a lot higher in athleticism and even size. Players like Brandin Echols, Hamsah Nasirildeen, Rodarius Williams, and Rachad Wildgoose. The reason they took Jean-Charles?

Again, experience and fit. He had a lot of special teams experience, and that is what he was drafted for. He may never be more than a #4 corner and special teamer, and that’s fine because that is what they drafted him for.

Isaiah McDuffie:

While not the average to below-average athlete some of the others are, McDuffie is still an outlier for a normal Gutekunst linebacker pick. Gutey’s, and even Thompson’s, MO at linebacker has been guys with solid size — in the 6’1+ 235+ pound range.

McDuffie falls a bit short of that at 227 — and a pumped up 227 at that — where his frame is pretty maxed out. His upside is probably limited due to his size and poor agility. But again, that’s not why he was drafted. He was drafted to play special teams, and maybe be a #4 linebacker.

Finally to the Options:

Which option the Packers take relies on one person: Aaron Rodgers. Whether he’s back or he retires / is traded will tell us which approach the Packers and Gutekust likely go with.

“All-in” approach

With this approach, we will probably see a similar draft to 2021. A few highly-athletic players with upside, and a number of ‘role players’ or ‘pro-ready’ type guys to fill specific roles and help the team get to a Super Bowl in 2022.

The Rebuild approach

This is if Rodgers is gone. If he is gone, the Packers are not a Super bowl contender in 2022 — and probably not even 2023. So why take a bunch of guys with limited upside who won’t grow with your young roster? If this happens we will see the Packers return to their approach from 2018-2020.

Week 15 NFL Power Rankings

Rick Scuteri, Associated Press

The Week 15 NFL Power Rankings saw the chaos subside a bit. Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of chaos and movement this week. It’s just that all the movement happens to be concentrated in the middle of the pack this week, rather than in the top and bottom of the list. So, we’re going to dive in this week and just try to enjoy the fact that things aren’t quite as weird.

32. Detroit Lions (1-11-1)

Last Week: 32

Back to losing, Lions fans. Sorry. They didn’t really stand much of a chance against the Broncos this week. The Lions were mediocre in the first half and kept things relatively close. But, they imploded in the second half. They kicked things off with a fumble three plays into the third quarter and ended things with an interception on the second to last drive.

31. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11)

Last week: 31

Jacksonville arguably put up the most pathetic performance this week as Trevor Lawrence threw four interceptions. The defense also gave up over 100 yards rushing to a Titans team that does not have Derrick Henry. With more drama surrounding Urban Meyer this week, I really want to knock them down to 32 in the Week 15 NFL Power Rankings. Unfortunately, until the Lions catch up, I just can’t.

30. Houston Texans (2-11)

Last Week: 30

This was another one of those weeks where all the bad teams play badly. Therefore, you’re not going to see much movement in this section of the Week 15 NFL Power Rankings. Brandin Cooks and Davis Mills both had pretty decent games this week. Unfortunately, that wasn’t anywhere close to enough in the second half. The Texans played a pretty clean game, but are clearly a step-below talent wise.

29. New York Jets (3-10)

Last Week: 29

Speaking of hopeless looking situations, Zach Wilson looks incompetent. He didn’t make any major mistakes to kill the Jets this week, other than the 23 incomplete passes he threw. Some quarterbacks don’t even throw it that many times in a game. But, Wilson threw the ball 42 times and only completed it 19 times. At least he was the Jets’ leading rusher this week, right?

28. New York Giants (4-9)

Last Week: 27

I’m just not sure who the Giants even are at this point. Are they Saquon Barkley’s team? Are they a cavalcade of mediocre quarterbacks? They definitely seem like they’re bad defensively. Then again, Justin Herbert has a tendency to make a lot of people look bad. There weren’t a lot of expectations this week, but it feels like the Giants fell short of even that.

27. Chicago Bears (4-9)

Last Week: 26

I’m sorry, Bears fans. Aaron Rodgers STILL owns you. Justin Fields couldn’t even come close to keeping up this week. He did pretty well running the ball. But, you hope for more from your young quarterback than that. Perhaps you can take some solace in knowing you had a lead at halftime. But, no moral victories.

26. Carolina Panthers (5-8)

Last Week: 23

Remember when Cam Newton being back felt like it was precipitating a massive resurgence in Carolina? Yeah. Those good feelings are over. Cam was a disaster this week with a pick six in the first half and a goofy fumble in the second. He ended up being benched for PJ Walker in the middle of the fourth quarter. Just like that, the opportunity for Cam’s legendary return feels completely gone.

25. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-6-1)

Last Week: 22

I will give credit to the Steelers for clawing their way back in that game. Ben Roethlisberger made some vintage throws that reminded everyone of the old days. It just felt like one of those games the Steelers always win, you know? Well, not so much. At the end of the game, the defense couldn’t keep the Vikings from scoring during the miracle comeback.

24. Atlanta Falcons (6-7)

Last Week: 28

Believe it or not, the Atlanta Falcons are actually currently tied for the No. 7 seed in the playoffs. Unfortunately for them, a cascade of tiebreakers have them sitting as the No. 11 team in the NFC. Believe it or not, a solid push in the final four weeks could have this team in the playoffs. Then again, the way they’ve gotten that 6-7 record makes them feel a lot farther off than that.

23. Seattle Seahawks (5-8)

Last Week: 24

For the first time this year, the Seattle Seahawks are on a winning streak! To be fair, beating the Texans wasn’t nearly as impressive as beating the 49ers. But, if they somehow win out, 9-8 looks a lot better than what we were all expecting. That’s not impossible either. Their final four games come against two division opponents, the Bears, and the Lions.

22. New Orleans Saints (6-7)

Last Week: 25

The Jets aren’t exactly the most inspiring opponent to get a dominating victory against. But, a dominating victory against anyone in the NFL is impressive. The biggest part of this game, though, was probably Taysom Hill. He showed why the Saints believed in him enough to hand him that contract extension. Not so much as a passer, but he got the job done and that’s why they move up in the Week 15 NFL Power Rankings.

21. Las Vegas Raiders (6-7)

Last Week: 16

Ouch. Derek Carr threw the ball 45 times and only put up 263 yards and a touchdown. The running game put up a respectable 3.7 yards per carry, but the Raiders only ran the ball 12 times so I don’t think anyone is singing their praises. This game looked like an absolute confirmation that the Raiders do not have what it takes to be a playoff team in 2021. Pack it up, get ready for next year boys.

20. Washington Football Team (6-7)

Last Week: 14

Washington’s slim chance to challenge the Cowboys for control of the NFC East slipped out of their grasp on Sunday. They’re still holding onto the No. 7 seed in the NFC playoffs. But, I’m having trouble believing they’re going to hold onto that spot with the way their season has gone. The momentum appears to have been sucked out of the air in Washington after fumbling the comeback away.

19. Miami Dolphins (6-7)

Last Week: 19

The playoffs are probably still a pipe dream in Miami. But, they got some help this week with some major shakeups at the bottom of the AFC playoff race. Tua has been playing really well lately and Miami’s fortunes have improved with his play. At the very least, the Dolphins can enjoy some hope for next year if they continue turning things around the way they have been lately.

18. Minnesota Vikings (6-7)

Last Week: 20

I still don’t trust the Vikings. I don’t know if I can at this point. They won, but they BARELY won against Ben Roethlisberger’s shambling corpse despite a 29-0 lead well into the third quarter. I’ll give the Vikings a boost in the Week 15 NFL Power Rankings for inching their way back to .500 with the win. But, I still don’t trust them. I don’t see them as a playoff team. I’d be shocked if they made it at this point.

17. Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)

Last Week: 17

The dream of miraculously winning the NFC East died a few weeks ago in Philly. So, I think it was better for them that Washington lost and got them closer to a wild card spot. With two games left to play against the No. 7 seeded Washington Football Team, the Eagles still have everything in front of them. But, they’ll need to execute starting this week.

16. Denver Broncos (7-6)

Last Week: 21

The Broncos have been slowly turning their season back around in the second half. Now, they’re one of many 7-6 AFC teams tied in a log-jam for a Wild Card spot. They’ll have an opportunity to get one over one of those teams they’re tied with in the floundering Bengals this week. Their boost in the Week 15 NFL Power Rankings is because of that. It’s not because they pounded an inferior Lions team in a game that reminded me a lot of their fake ass 3-0 start.

15. Baltimore Ravens (8-5)

Last Week: 12

The Ravens have gotten so lucky that the Bengals lost the last two weeks, because the Ravens have been imploding. Now, Lamar Jackson is hurt. It sounds like the Ravens are optimistic he won’t be out very long, if any time at all. But, even if he is back the Ravens are still an extremely injured football team and it seems to be starting to affect their ability to put together a basic gameplan.

14. Cincinnati Bengals (7-6)

Last Week: 10

The Cincinnati Bengals are starting to enter Minnesota Vikings territory. Can we trust them? Are they good? They sure haven’t looked particularly good the last two weeks, save for impressive comebacks. But, the Bengals keep digging themselves into these really tough holes. If they are to be a playoff team this year, they’ll need to reel that in if they want to have any hope of breaking their infamous playoff drought.

13. Cleveland Browns (7-6)

Last Week: 18

The Browns came out of their bye week looking pretty similar to what they looked like before their bye week. The difference is the AFC North has basically collapsed around them. The Browns’ week off was seriously rejuvenating. They now sit at 7-6, still on the outside of the playoff picture. But, in a much better spot than they were two weeks ago.

12. Buffalo Bills (7-6)

Last Week: 11

Things are starting to get dire in Buffalo. The evil empire is back, and Tom Brady still owns the Bills. Suddenly, they’re 7-6 along with five other AFC teams and are barely holding onto that No. 7 seed. Remember when we all thought they were the class of the AFC? My how times have changed.

11. Indianapolis Colts (7-6)

Last Week: 13

The Colts have really turned things around this season. They are winners of six of their last eight games, and those two losses were close ones against some of the best teams in the NFL. They’re currently in control of the No. 6 seed in the AFC and don’t look like they’ll be giving it up anytime soon. The one roadblock? Back to back games against New England and Arizona after the bye.

10. San Francisco 49ers (7-6)

Last Week: 15

Speaking of teams that have turned things around, the 49ers might be inconsistent but they’re really talented. Jimmy Garoppolo might be trying to give the ball away in key situations. But, the 49ers appear to be well positioned to overcome those hiccups and allow him to contribute throughout most of the game as a master of efficiency. From near the basement to the top 10 of the Week 15 NFL Power Rankings, the 49ers are getting hot at the right time.

9. Arizona Cardinals (10-3)

Last Week: 3

The Arizona Cardinals have gotten to 10-3 this season mostly by beating a bunch of bad teams. You could make the argument that their most respectable win of the season came over the Los Angeles Rams back in Week 4. But, they’re taking a dive in the Week 15 Power Rankings because they can’t even hang their hat on that anymore. The Cardinals are 3-3 in their last six games and they still have tough games against the Colts and Cowboys coming up.

8. Los Angeles Chargers (8-5)

Last Week: 8

The Chargers are starting to get back on track after it was starting to look questionable there for a bit. I still don’t know if this team has what it takes to run through the playoffs and make it to the Super Bowl. But, they’ve won three of their last four. Beating the Giants by 17 is just icing on the cake.

7. Tennessee Titans (8-4)

Last Week: 7

The Titans got back on track against the Jaguars this week, as everyone seems to do. I still don’t know if they’re going to make much noise in January considering the state of their roster. But, they’re only two wins away from clinching the AFC South. Luckily they did most of the necessary work early this season.

6. Dallas Cowboys (9-4)

Last Week: 6

The Cowboys staved off a potential nightmare situation by holding off the Washington Football Team this week and are now one win away from clinching the NFC East. A win over the lowly Giants this coming week could do just that. I would be shocked to see them lose out at this point. So, holding on for that victory against Washington ends up feeling like a clinching moment.

5. Los Angeles Rams (9-4)

Last Week: 9

Like the Cardinals, the Rams haven’t been doing much winning against good teams lately. In fact, when they played the Titans, 49ers, and Packers they went on a three-game losing streak that they only came out of last week. Now, they have a quality win over a division rival. That division rival is now only a game ahead of them in the running for the NFC West. Winning that division seems very possible now.

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-3)

Last Week: 5

It is just absurd to think about the fact that Tom Brady is 44 years old and still playing at this level. It’s a level the Buffalo Bills have been familiar with for his whole career. But, he now holds the record for most completions in NFL history. But, here’s the thing. Even if Brady doesn’t do well, Leonard Fournette appears to be approaching everything Jacksonville thought they were getting when they took him No. 4 overall.

3. Kansas City Chiefs (9-4)

Last Week: 4

The Chiefs are officially back, everyone. Most of the AFC should take notice because they’re riding a six-game win streak and it hasn’t really been close for a while now. The biggest question now is… can the Chiefs’ offense play well against a team other than Las Vegas?

2. Green Bay Packers (10-3)

Last Week: 2

The Green Bay Packers are a force. Aaron Rodgers is a force. Davante Adams is a force. The Packers’ defense didn’t look quite as good this week as they have in weeks past. But, it doesn’t matter because the Packers came away with a dominating victory over their “rival.” A wacky first half aside, this result really should never have been in doubt.

1. New England Patriots (9-4)

Last Week: 1

Show of hands: who saw the Patriots sitting at 9-4 after the bye? I sure didn’t. Especially after they started 1-3. But, they’ve only lost one game since that start. That game was back in mid-October. Can anyone challenge this team? If the Colts don’t beat them this coming week, I don’t know if they will lose another game this season. For now, they stay at the top of the Week 15 NFL Power Rankings.

Week 11 NFL Power Rankings

Week 11 NFL Power Rankings
Kevork Djansezian, Getty Images

In the Week 11 NFL Power Rankings, I had to make a few leaps. They might seem a bit over-the-top at first. But, trust me, it just reflects another truly crazy week in the NFL. This is what we love about the NFL. Any team can beat any team any week. Just when you thought you had it figured out, it’s time to throw all that knowledge out the window. Here’s what things are looking like after Week 10.

32. Detroit Lions (0-8-1)

Last Week: 32

Last week I asked if it was possible the Lions could go 0-17. Not anymore! That said, somehow, a winless season is still on the table. As hard as the Lions have fought this year, sloppiness and poor execution is still preventing this team from getting in the win column. 0-17 might not be possible. But, could 0-16-1? This week really felt like their best opportunity with a brutal schedule over their next eight weeks.

31. Houston Texans (1-8)

Last Week: 31

The Texans were on bye this week. Frankly, their season has gone so poorly that nothing that happens in the NFL really affects them. That is, other than what happens with the draft positioning. The Texans are currently in control of the Dolphins’ first round pick as well as their own this year. Unfortunately, the Dolphins won and probably knocked their spot down a few pegs.

30. New York Jets (2-7)

Last Week: 29

So much for Mike White SZN. After his hall of fame worthy performance against the Bengals, he got hurt against the Colts and threw four interceptions against the Bills. Things got so bad at one point Joe Flacco went in and immediately put up the Jets’ only passing touchdown of the game.

The only winner here is Zach Wilson, who likely won’t have to worry about a quarterback controversy anymore when he comes back.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-7)

Last week: 27

A two-spot drop is probably a bit harsh for a Jaguars team that almost pulled off a comeback over the rebounding Colts. Unfortunately, I can’t get that performance from Trevor Lawrence out of my head. He barely helped generate any offense all day and didn’t get the ball in the endzone once. Also, he fumbled the comeback away at the end. Painful way to lose for the Jaguars.

28. Miami Dolphins (3-7)

Last Week: 30

One underrated benefit of not having a first round draft pick in a wasted year is Dolphins fans get to root for crazy, weird wins. It’s not like the Dolphins can tank for better draft positioning. So, maybe it’s nice to see your former No. 5 overall quarterback come in and save the day when it looked like Jacoby Brisket couldn’t take the gift the Ravens were trying to give him.

That said, why wasn’t he starting in the first place if he was healthy enough to play? Even in a win the Dolphins look like a mess. Tua should probably request a trade in the offseason.

27. Atlanta Falcons (4-5)

Last Week: 22

I really need to stop buying into the Falcons. This is what they do, right? They get your hopes up by playing well enough just to get you to step on the rug one more time. Then, they yank it out from under your feet. You’d think I’d learn right? I hope Falcons fans have learned. Back to the basement you go.

26. New York Giants (3-6)

Last Week: 26

Rough bye week for a Giants team that saw each of its NFC East opponents come away with a win this week. They do hold a head-to-head tiebreaker over Washington. So, technically, they should be ranked ahead of them. Right? Let’s see what they do after the bye week. 

25. Chicago Bears (3-6)

Last Week: 25

After the Vikings win, the Bears are now alone for third place in the NFC North. Luckily, the Lions can’t seem to get out of their own way so they won’t have to go anywhere near the basement this year. But, at 3-6, it’s hard to imagine anything positive is going to come of this year.

24. Washington Football Team (3-6)

Last Week: 28

Washington put together a complete game. Taylor Heinicke looked like the guy people were thinking he might be able to be when these two teams met in the playoffs. This time around, it was Heinicke with a 110.4 passer rating who outdueled Tom Brady, who threw two early interceptions.

However, you have to give credit to them for saving their best play for the second half. That’s why they see a large bump in the Week 11 NFL Power Rankings.

23. Seattle Seahawks (3-6)

Last Week: 21

Russ is back! Aaaaannndd… it didn’t matter. The Seahawks’ offense was a complete non-factor as Russell Wilson wasn’t able to cook up much more than turnovers. They managed to keep the game close at 3-0 until the Packers broke the game open in the fourth quarter.

But, it wasn’t enough, and things are starting to look rough for a Seahawks team that couldn’t buy a win with Geno Smith and looks like they’ll need a miracle to get back in the playoff race.

22. Denver Broncos (5-5)

Last Week: 19

Somebody please explain this team to me. They completely dominated the Cowboys last week. This week? They completely fell apart. It was looking like they were going to get ready to make a comeback in the fourth quarter.

But, Melvin Gordon’s fumble-six killed any semblance of momentum they have. By the time the offense got its act back together, it was already nearing the end of the fourth quarter. One step forward, one step back.

21. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3-1)

Last Week: 18

The Steelers are still desperately clinging onto a wild card seed they probably don’t deserve. Somehow they failed to generate any offense against the Browns, played losing football against the Bears, and let the Lions march down the field in overtime twice. Yet, they didn’t lose any of those games. The Steelers’ five game win streak after starting 1-3 feels a lot like that fake 11-0 start from last year.

20. Carolina Panthers (5-5)

Last Week: 23

You couldn’t make up a story better than Cam Newton triumphantly returning to Carolina to put the season back on track. It kind of reminds me of when the Cincinnati Bengals brought Boomer Esiason back in 1997 to rescue a 1-7 Bengals team.

That team finished 7-9 behind the former MVP. Just two games behind the No. 6 seeded Miami Dolphins. Could Cam play well enough to provide the same kind of false hope in Carolina?

19. Philadelphia Eagles (4-6)

Last Week: 22

Don’t look now, but the Eagles are actually back to being a .500 team over the last six weeks. They also almost played well enough to complete comebacks against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Los Angeles Chargers. I’m still not sure who the Broncos are just yet, but a dominating win is all that matters. Believe it or not, this team is actually only one game behind in the race for a playoff spot.

18. San Francisco 49ers (4-5)

Last Week: 20

The 49ers defense made life hell on Matthew Stafford and Jimmy Garoppolo followed up with an efficient night. Deebo Samuel and George Kittle proved earned their keep this week, combining for 147 yards and two touchdowns.

The 49ers get a modest boost in the Week 11 NFL Power Rankings because they’re not the only basement team to upset a contender this week. But, the Rams are still a solid conquest for Kyle Shannahan’s trophy case.

17. Las Vegas Raiders (5-4)

Last Week: 14

I think losing Jon Gruden, Henry Ruggs, and Damon Arnette in back-to-back-to-back weeks may have been a bit much to overcome. The Raiders famously overcame the Gruden drama to decisively beat the Denver Broncos.

But, losing Henry Ruggs clearly crippled their offense against the Giants. This week, they looked totally lost in Kansas City. It’s a shame, because this team had so much potential. But, I think it’s time to start thinking about regrouping in 2022.

16. New Orleans Saints (5-4)

Last Week: 15

Trevor Siemian continues to play well for the New Orleans Saints. Who would have guessed! The Saints actually took one of the hottest teams in the NFL to the wire this week. But, a couple costly mistakes here and there killed them. For example, the fumbled kickoff at the beginning of the second half that set the Titans up at the Saints’ 19. Five plays later, they were down 20-6.

They managed to come back and almost win. But, it was too little too late at that point. This Saints team can be good, but I don’t think they’re quite where they want to be.

15. Cleveland Browns (5-5)

Last Week: 12

Cleveland’s offense looked so much better without OBJ last week. What happened? The Browns got punched in the mouth after their emotional conquering of the Cincinnati Bengals on the road. No such luck in Foxborough, as the Browns fell 31-7 before a knee injury forced Baker Mayfield to sit the rest of the game out. Case Keenum was somewhat more efficient, but less explosive, which is what the Browns really needed at that point.

Luckily, it sounds like Baker will be ok going forward. But, the Browns are going to need to get something figured out if that is how they look without Nick Chubb.

14. Indianapolis Colts (5-5)

Last Week: 16

Staving off a Jaguars comeback might not be the most impressive way to win of all time. But, the Colts are turning their season around. They’ve won four out of their last five, and the one loss was a close overtime loss to the Week 11 NFL Power Rankings best team in football. Don’t sleep on this Colts team’s potential to be alive in January.

13. Minnesota Vikings (4-5)

Last Week: 17

When the Vikings play in sync, special things happen. Kirk Cousins and Dalvin Cook both played smart, heads up football in what will likely be looked as an upset win over a floundering Chargers team. Also, it helps that Justin Jefferson went off for 143 yards on nine catches. I don’t consider this one a huge upset, however. If the Vikings can play a complete football game, they’re as dangerous as anyone in the NFL.

12. Los Angeles Chargers (5-4)

Last Week: 9

Justin Herbert’s inconsistency that had a lot of people worried about him during the Draft scouting process is starting to rear its ugly head. That’s not to say that he’s terrible or anything like that. But, he has been much less efficient than he was last year. His up-and-down day against the Vikings is a big reason why they lost this game. That’s why they find themselves out of the top 10 in the Week 11 NFL Power Rankings.

11. Cincinnati Bengals (5-4)

Last Week: 13

It’s not too often an NFL football team sees as complete of a victory on their bye week as this. After a rough two weeks against the Jets and Browns, the Bengals almost got vaulted back into control of a playoff spot this week. The Ravens equaled the Bengals’ Jets loss with a loss to the Dolphins. The Browns equaled the Bengals’ blowout loss with an even worse blowout loss to the Patriots (albeit on the road).

The Steelers tied with the winless Lions. Had the Lions’ kicker even made his missed extra point attempt, the Steelers would have lost and the Bengals would be in control of the No. 7 seed. That said, they have the opportunity to go earn it themselves this week against a Raiders team that looks dead in the water.

10. Baltimore Ravens (6-3)

Last Week: 7

Did the Cincinnati Bengals expose a major flaw in the Baltimore Ravens’ offense? Allegedly, Brian Flores took some cues from Lou Anarumo’s playbook to pick the Ravens apart defensively this week. Greg Roman is going to need to cook something up fast to avoid proving how easy his system is to figure out. Their remaining schedule is brutal, so hopefully they can make that happen.

9. Los Angeles Rams (7-3)

Last Week: 8

For the second week in a row, Matthew Stafford looked more like the erratic Detroit version of himself. That’s not what the Los Angeles Rams need right now as they try to get back on track. They’re now losers of two straight after looking like one of the hottest teams in the NFL through the first eight weeks. Hence, why they’re now creeping near the edge of the top 10 of the Week 11 NFL Power Rankings.

8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-3)

Last Week: 6

I would probably have knocked the Bucs down harder in the Week 11 NFL Power Rankings, if not for all the other major upsets. The Bucs’ offense made the Washington defense look like the elite unit they were expected to be this year. Tom Brady threw two early interceptions the Bucs were just never really able to recover from. By the time he regained his focus, Washington was already up 13-0. They put together a pretty decent comeback near the end but it was all for naught. 

7. Kansas City Chiefs (6-4)

Last Week: 11

I’ve been assuming the Chiefs are going to bounce back in a big way all year, and they did that this week. Considering the narrative surround them this season, it seems weird to have them in the top 10 of the Week 11 NFL Power Rankings, right? Well, this team is 6-4 and top of the AFC West right now, despite their struggles.

Perhaps we shouldn’t read too much into one blowout win over a division opponent that has had the kitchen sink thrown at them over the past month. But, I’d be shocked if the Chiefs missed the playoffs at this point.

6. Arizona Cardinals (8-2)

Last Week: 1

I know the Cardinals still don’t have Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins. But, to be fair, part of the reason I had them at No. 1 in the first place was their ability to win despite those setbacks. They’re out of the top 5 of the Week 11 NFL Power Rankings because the Panthers were supposed to be cooked.

Colt McCoy was inefficient and the Cardinals could barely get anything going on the ground. Perhaps this team will be more dangerous when healthy. But, right now, they don’t look so hot.

5. New England Patriots (6-4)

Last Week: 8

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Bill Belichick is back in a big way, leading the Patriots into the top 5 of the Week 11 NFL Power Rankings. Mac Jones and Brian Hoyer both put on an absolute clinic against a Cleveland Browns team that was riding high on emotion after a crazy Week 9.

Oh, not to mention 184 yards on the ground. The Patriots employed their standard running back committee this week between Rhamondre Stevenson, Brandon Bolden, and JJ Taylor and they STILL had one of those guys hit 100 yards (exactly) this week.

4. Buffalo Bills (6-3)

Last Week: 5

The Buffalo Bills finally conquered Hall of Famer Mike White this week, forcing four interceptions. So, yeah. Maybe the Jets aren’t ready to take off like everyone thought they were. But, great teams blow bad teams out of the water. That, plus the demise of the Cardinals, is why the Bills see a climb in the Week 11 NFL Power Rankings.

3. Dallas Cowboys (7-2)

Last Week: 4

The Cowboys bounced back in a big way this week by doing to the Falcons what they should have done to the Broncos. Some might not value a win like this over the lowly Falcons, but I do. The Cowboys see a jump in the Week 11 NFL Power Rankings because this is not the way teams typically beat the Falcons.

Dak Prescott resumed his Comeback Player of the Year campaign this week with a stunning performance over a Falcons team that has done its fair share of losing this year. But, they typically avoid getting nuked like that.

2. Green Bay Packers (8-2)

Last Week: 3

Aaron Rodgers didn’t look like himself coming off his COVID adventure. But, the rest of the Packers picked up the slack around him much like they did for Jordan Love last week. The Packers’ defense tormented Russell Wilson all night and pitched a shutout at Lambeau.

AJ Dillon found the endzone twice and the Packers escaped with a 17-0 win. This is starting to turn into Rodgers’ worst nightmare. The Packers might not need him anymore and can probably plug anyone in at quarterback if he doesn’t want to play nicely.

1. Tennessee Titans (8-2)

Last Week: 2

The Titans’ rushing attack clearly isn’t the same without Derrick Henry. Adrian Peterson is an easy first ballot Hall of Famer. But, at 36 years old, he’s clearly nothing more than a rotational piece at this point. No matter. Ryan Tannehill is putting this team on his back and willing them to victories. The only question is… is this new formula sustainable?

It might very well be. That is why they’re at the top of the Week 11 NFL Power Rankings, and likely will be most of the rest of the year with their schedule. They’ll probably be the AFC’s No. 1 seed at the end of the season. But, are they going to be able to continue that efficiency when every game gets hard in the playoffs?

Bears vs Packers: Week 6 Recap – Bears lose. Again

The Bears took on the Packers on Sunday, and the results were…the same as they usually are

Bears vs Packers
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Your Chicago Bears (3-3) lose vs the Green Bay Packers (5-1) 24-14. Not much else is new, besides Aaron’s new soundbite. “I own you!” Tough, but fair. Bears were actually within striking distance for the whole game, even having jumped out to an early 7-0 lead, as well as cutting it to 3 points with a long touchdown drive late. Yet, as soon as Rodgers got the ball in his hands in the 4th, you knew what was going to happen. At the same time, we saw a few bright spots. I’ll do my best to play those up.

1st Quarter 

Neutral zone infraction on the first play, and the next was a 16-yard scramble from Rodgers. Nice foreshadowing. Aaron Jones followed it with a nice run, Rodgers had a couple of short passes after that, but the Bears ultimately get some early-down run stops, force the Packers into a 3rd and long, and sack Rodgers to get off of the field. At which point the Bears, somehow, not only establish the run with Khalil Herbert but get a perfect 3/3 passing drive from Justin Fields. Add in a long PI and the Bears punch in a 7-0 early lead with Herbert.

Next drive Bears get a 3 and out after Quinn gets home on 3rd and long. What could possibly go wrong? Good return as Grant got a little banged up, a great run from Herbert, Fields scrambles for a near first when the pocket collapses on 3rd and 5, we pick it up on 4th and short. A few plays later, Green Bay clearly jumps into the neutral zone.

Refs don’t call it, Justin thinks he has a free play (that Allen Robinson seemingly gives up on) and Green Bay gets an interception in the end zone that should have never happened. The refs would never allow that to happen to Rodgers, by the way. The Bears started off getting good pressure on Green Bay’s next drive. So inevitably, the refs miss Rodgers grabbing Mario Edwards Jr.’s face mask and hit Edwards with an unsportsmanlike for reacting to it. Typical. 

2nd Quarter

Packers run a QB sneak on a 4th and 1. Bears run defense responds, and then Davante Adams kills Jaylon Johnson for 29 yards on a slant. Johnson had been shadowing Adams, he was doing well on the outside, but this one came from the slot. Eventually Green Bay scores on a shovel pass to tie the game. Bears go 3 and out, and it feels like Green Bay is figuring it out. They are. Dillon runs for 38 to start the next drive.

Green Bay eventually settles for a field goal after they get called for OPI. Quinn had a big TFL on the drive as the defense fought back after the big lead. Still, Green Bay takes a 10-7 lead. Bears start off well with the run, dodge a bullet on another Fields near pick, have another shot to tie the game but ultimately take a sack on 3rd down, and have to punt instead of getting up a field goal attempt. 

3rd Quarter

Bears start the 3rd with a few runs, but a dropped pass on a screen to Herbert leads to a punt. Green Bay takes over on offense, they go to DA on 1st down, gash the bears with Aaron Jones after that. We get another questionable PI penalty on 3rd and 4, and after a Marcedes Lewis reception and even more Aaron Jones the Pack go up 10.

The ballgame feels done at this point. Bears try to get something going with more Herbert, as well as a nice pass to Mooney, but the drive ultimately stalls. Hicks sacks the Packers on a free run to get off the field the next drive, but seemingly hurt himself on the play. 

4th Quarter

After an 82 yard punt, the Bears take over from their own 20. After 2 solid runs, Fields finds Robinson for a 20-yard strike down the middle of the field on 3rd and short. Could have had the easy first with his legs but you love the confidence. On the next play, he responds with a 21-yard strike to Cole Kmet. Hope returns. Justin makes a play with his legs, Herbert gets a TD called back on another questionable penalty.

Bears fightback from 1st and 20, and eventually end a 5 minute, 80-yard drive with a Mooney receiving touchdown. Bears down 3, but Rodgers gets the ball back, hooks up with Adams for a 40-yard completion after a couple of thwarted runs, and ultimately rolls out to the near side of the field for the game-winning touchdown.

Seemed like he was holding on to that one since his first scramble in the first quarter. He discount double checks in the end zone, berates the fans in a video you’ll see forever, and that’s pretty much it.

The Bears show some fight but just don’t have enough yet. Next week they travel to Tampa (who have 10 days of rest) next week. 

This is fine.