In baseball, when a premier pitcher has an off night but still gets a win, we'll often dismiss the sub-par performance by saying that the pitcher "won without his best stuff". You could say the same for many of the top teams in this week's power rankings. Most teams ended up winning the games they were "supposed to win" in Week 11, but it certainly wasn't pretty. Three heavy favorites (Dallas, Tampa Bay, Houston) were forced into overtime victories against three teams that had a total of five victories between them. Other teams (Atlanta, Baltimore) eked out close victories even though the opponents' quarterback situations were in shambles. (The truth hurts, Arizona and Pittsburgh.)
With the bye weeks finally over (fantasy football owners rejoice!), every team has exactly six games remaining heading into Thanksgiving weekend. Here's where we think they fit heading into the season's home stretch.
As always, we list our power rankings with each team's record followed by how their ranking changed compared to last week.
- Texans (9-1, NC): It took each and every one of Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson's record-setting yards to beat lowly Jacksonville at home in overtime. Wasn't their defense supposed to easily shut down the Jags' league-worst offense?
- Falcons (9-1, NC): Some will say that Atlanta's victory despite five Matt Ryan picks is a result of a great team being resilient. I say it's the result of playing an opponent that doesn't have a quarterback.
- 49ers (7-2-1, +1): The good news: San Francisco pummeled Chicago and proved that they're still one of the best teams in the league. The bad news: they might have a quarterback controversy on their hands. Colin Kaepernick looked outstanding on Monday night.
- Patriots (7-3, +3): At least one good team beat up on their opponents like they were supposed to this week, which is why New England gets such a nice bump in the rankings. Losing Rob Gronkowski will hurt, but their offense (now with 70% more balance!) will still rack up points without him.
- Ravens (8-2, -2): I know, I know. You're supposed to "throw out the records" when Baltimore and Pittsburgh get together. A win is a win no matter how you get it in that rivalry. But it also looks like the Ravens have thrown out the offense.
- Broncos (7-3, +2): Everyone knows how well Peyton Manning is playing. But Von Miller is quietly anchoring a defense that is improving every week. Denver should secure a first-round bye if they keep playing like this.
- Packers (7-3, -2): The Pack should send a thank you card to Matthew Stafford. He kept Green Bay in that game for four quarters. If Aaron Rodgers isn't playing lights out, this team just looks slightly above average right now.
- Bears (7-3, -2): The offense doesn't always look great with Jay Cutler, but it's definitely better than the alternative. No matter who lines up under center, their offensive line might get him killed against a top-flight defense.
- Giants (6-4, NC): The Giants spent their bye week listening to everyone ask what's wrong with them. Expect them to...oh hell, who knows what to expect of them these days?
- Seahawks (6-4, NC): Seattle faces two road games coming off of their bye. Their playoff hopes will most likely be decided by whether or not they can win a couple away from CenturyLink Field.
- Buccaneers (6-4, +2): Looking terrible for most of the game, pulling out an incredible comeback victory on the road--who do they think they are, the Giants?
- Steelers (6-4, -1): Get well soon, Ben Roethlisberger. Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch aren't going to bring this team anywhere.
- Colts (6-4, -1): Can you say "reality check"? New England can make just about any team look bad, but Indianapolis needs to take care of the ball and stop the opposing offense from time to time too.
- Vikings (6-4, NC): As they say at the end of Super Troopers: are you ready for the fun part? 'Cause here comes the fun part. Only one of their remaining six opponents are currently ranked lower than the Vikes in our rankings.
- Saints (5-5, +1): We knew that their offense would put up points. But if their defense can keep making a big play or two per game, they might actually have a shot at the playoffs.
- Cowboys (5-5, -1): They probably should have lost on Sunday given the way they played for about three quarters, but thankfully Cleveland did their best Dallas impression and gave it away.
- Bengals (5-5, +1): See, everyone? That's how you're supposed to put away a crappy team. Their next four games are against teams at or below .500, so they could make a run before finishing with two tough divisional games.
- Redskins (4-6, +4): Washington is still too beat up and shaky on defense to seriously contend this year. But wow, does Robert Griffin III give that team a bright future.
- Lions (4-6, -2): Perhaps we should quit asking why the Lions aren't living up to their potential. Instead, we might want to start wondering how last year's team overachieved, because this just looks like the same old Lions that we're all used to.
- Jets (4-6, +6): Mark Sanchez looked--gasp--pretty good on Sunday. The Jets still aren't that good, but maybe they aren't as terrible as most of us thought.
- Titans (4-6, +3): The best part about being in the lower half of the rankings: a bye week can help your ranking because everyone else around you usually loses.
- Bills (4-6, +5): It was nice of their defense to finally show up 11 weeks into the season.
- Dolphins (4-6, -4): Miami hasn't hit the wall. The wall chased them down and hit them. Hard.
- Chargers (4-6, -4): Are Norv Turner and Andy Reid having some sort of secret contest to see which fan base can hate their respective coach more?
- Rams (3-6-1, -4): Is it time to start asking if Sam Bradford is the answer in St. Louis? It's not like he has a ton of weapons, but he hasn't looked like anything more than a middle of the road QB up to this point of his career.
- Cardinals (4-6, -3): Plus-five in turnovers, minus-four in points. That's tough to do. Unless of course you have the three-headed monster of awful quarterbacks that Arizona is stuck with.
- Eagles (3-7, -2): Remember, this team barely won those three games before going on their current six-game losing streak. I know it doesn't seem possible, but things could probably be even worse in Philadelphia.
- Raiders (3-7, NC): It looked like New Orleans handed off their horrible defense to Oakland.
- Browns (2-8, +1): Only Cleveland can dominate a game like that and still come up on the losing end.
- Panthers (2-8, -1): Oh wait, never mind. Carolina can do it too.
- Jaguars (1-9, NC): If Blaine Gabbert starts next week after the surprisingly great game Chad Henne had, then we know Jacksonville is officially tanking for a draft pick.
- Chiefs (1-9, NC): Go ahead Jaguars, tank all you want. There's no form of tanking that could defeat how truly awful Kansas City is right now.