The NFL 2016 season is through Week 11; not much is clear as far as playoff positioning. And ratings are going up as 27 teams sort things out over the next six weeks. (The Jets, Jaguars, and Bears may not be “mathematically” eliminated, but let’s get real.)
The following is a Strings & Laces hot take on some NFL teams, from best record to worse:
1. Dallas Cowboys (9-1)
Dak Prescott and Tony Romo are experiencing something eerily similar to Tom Brady and Drew Bledsoe of 2001: Franchise quarterback goes down, young kid comes in and starts building his legendary status. Do we feel bad for Romo? Sure, a little. Did the Cowboys need a breath of fresh air? Yes. Dallas probably wouldn’t be 9-1 with Romo; Prescott is much more dynamic than Romo ever was. And Ezekiel Elliott is the best Dallas running back since Emmitt Smith. The Cowboys are dangerous, and fun to watch.
2. New England Patriots (8-2)
Getting humbled by Seattle at home in Week 10 could turn out positive for New England in the end. As long as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are there, the Patriots will always be one of the better teams in the league. Since 2001, New England is 190-60, winning four Super Bowl’s. That’s the best decade-and-a-half track record in NFL history.
3. Oakland Raiders (8-2)
The Raiders haven’t had a winning record since MVP Rich Gannon led the team to the Super Bowl in 2002; exciting times for Oakland. And the cloud hanging over all this new found glory: Is the franchise moving to Las Vegas? Oakland’s mayor, Libby Schaaf, is working on some deal with Ronnie Lott to keep the Raiders in Oakland, but what can really keep the team in town is a winning product for years to come. If all of its pieces are working in fine motion, the Raiders can beat any opponent.
4. Seattle Seahawks (7-2-1)
Didn’t seem to have much going on at first, but the media can be jaded. Russell Wilson is healthy, and very mobile. The receiving core can catch almost anything. The defense is a vice grip. Yup, the Seahawks will be a tough out. How could we forget?
5. New York Giants (7-3)
Usually, there’s more noise coming out of New York if the Giants are 7-3, winning five straight games, but Dallas has stole all the headlines; rightfully so. If the NFL has one nemesis, it’s the New York Giants.
6. Kansas City Chiefs (7-3)
That fourth-quarter comeback at Carolina proves stamina and will to overcome. The Chiefs won’t win a championship, but it will stomp a hard foot.
7. Denver Broncos (7-3)
Trevor Siemian isn’t the quarterback that Denver needs; the offense routinely gets bailed out by the defense. This is the year that the defense gets burned out.
8. Washington Redskins (6-3-1)
YOU LIKE THAT?!? Yeah, the Redskins look alright. But the NFC East is super tough. Beat the Cowboys in Dallas on Thanksgiving and then we can talk.
9. Houston Texans (6-4)
How are the Texans 6-4? Oh, right, the AFC South is a train wreck of mediocrity. Houston’s offense is a puddle of mud, but the defense is stable. Regardless, if the Texans make the playoffs, it loses in the first round, per usual. Every let down is bigger in Texas.
10. Detroit Lions (6-4)
Golden Tate’s barrel roll into the endzone to beat the Vikings in OT sums up the Lions; they’re a wrecking ball in the fourth quarter. Matthew Stafford is having an MVP-caliber year (2,651 yards, 18 TD, 5 INT); the rest of the team is rallying around his passion for football. The NFC North is for Detroit’s taking.
11. Atlanta Falcons (6-4)
This team is lucky to be playing in the NFC South. That is all.
12. Miami Dolphins (6-4)
Miami looks to be running in the right direction — five consecutive wins — with an easy home game against San Francisco coming up, but the Dolphins’ flippant history does not bode well for future endeavors.
13. Minnesota Vikings (6-4)
We don’t know how the season would have been different with Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson healthy and playing, but maybe it wouldn’t have been much too different? Mike Zimmer is a good coach, and the Vikings’ defense is sick, but Sam Bradford as a championship quarterback? Meh.
— Jordan J. Michael