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2017 NFL Power Rankings: What do we know through eight weeks?

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2017 NFL Power Rankings: What do we know through eight weeks?

By Ryan Wormeli

Each team in the NFL has played either seven or eight games so far, marking the end of Week 8 as roughly the halfway point of the 2017 season. That makes it as good a time as any to look back on the first half and try to gauge what we actually know about the NFL.

Check out these takeaways and then head on over to see how Week 8 affected the 2017 power rankings by clicking any of the links below.


1. Rookie(s) of the Year

It's impossible to discuss this season without mentioning the league's newcomers. Kareem Hunt set the world on fire on the first night of the season and has continued to find success in every subsequent game. Dalvin Cook (pre-injury) and Leonard Fournette were highly productive runners from the get-go. Deshaun Watson somehow entered the season as the backup, but took over halfway through Week 1 and has been a superstar ever since. Evan Engram might already be the best pass-catcher in New York (Non-Odell Division). And Redskins fans know Jonathan Allen was making a nice impact before he got hurt. 

With guys like Tom Brady and Drew Brees getting older every year, the NFL needed a nice influx of young talent, and the 2017 draft gave us just that.

2. Philly Flying High

Brace yourself for this 'Skins fans, but the Eagles are legitimately good, and probably will be for a while. At 7-1, they have the best record in the NFL, a young quarterback breaking out in his 2nd season, and a really talented defense (when the secondary is healthy). There's a case to be made for Philadelphia as Super Bowl favorites, and with Wentz around for the foreseeable future, they aren't going away anytime soon. It looks like he and Prescott will be battling it out for NFC East supremacy over the next few years, putting even more emphasis on the Kirk Cousins question for the Redskins.

3. "Offensive" Line Play

Grading offensive lines can be difficult, even with the most advanced statistics available. Sack rate, yards per carry and other metrics that can highlight quality line play are also heavily influenced by skill position players. Still, it's fair to say O-lines around the NFL have taken a step back this season, with teams struggling more than ever to keep their quarterbacks upright and open holes for their running backs. Even the Cowboys, who had an all-time great offensive line in 2016, have fallen off greatly this season.

Head coaches are surely hoping the league sees more talent at the OT and G positions soon, as almost no teams are exempt from the current struggling state of the big uglies.


4. Hue-ge Mistake? (Or, the Cleveland Browns are really, really bad at evaluating quarterbacks)

The Browns have long struggled to find their next (first) franchise quarterback since returning to the NFL in 1999, starting a whopping 26 different QB's in that span. Despite a gaping hole at their most important position, head coach Hue Jackson passed on drafting Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson in consecutive years, opting to take a flier on DeShone Kizer instead. Stunningly, it appears the Browns have made a poor decision, as Wentz and Watson are likely two of the five biggest favorites for this season's MVP, despite being so new to the league. Kizer, meanwhile, is completing just 52.1% of his passes and sporting an unsightly 3:11 TD to INT ratio.  

As noted above, Wentz has led the Eagles to the league's best record, and Watson has revitalized the Texans offense since taking over the starting job midway through his first game. Fans in Philadelphia and Houston are not only excited for the future, but are already cheering for winners in the present. Browns fans, as has been the case for so many years, are stuck imagining what it would be like to have a star under center. For that matter, they're still imagining what it would be like to see their team win a game this season.

5. Primed for Parity?

Coming into the season, some folks thought the Patriots could go 16-0. Instead, they're lucky to be 6-2. The Chiefs started out a dominant 5-0, and then lost back to back games. The Cowboys cruised to a 13-3 record last season, but stand at just 4-3 through seven games, and may be without Ezekiel Elliott for 6 games. The Packers are perennial playoff threats, but lost all-world QB Aaron Rodgers to a broken collarbone.

The point is, we really don't know who the Super Bowl favorites are. The Eagles have the league's best record, but you could make a strong case for any number of teams to make it to Super Bowl Sunday. The NFL prides itself on parity, and outside of a few terrible teams at the bottom, just about every team rightfully sees itself as a potential playoff squad. It makes for an exciting season, but also means it's hard for us to lock in on the best teams. The truth is we really don't know that much about this year's NFL, which makes it just like any other year. And that's why the second half will be such a fun ride.


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Everybody thinks the intentional grounding call against Kirk Cousins was wrong, except Troy Aikman


Everybody thinks the intentional grounding call against Kirk Cousins was wrong, except Troy Aikman

The referees made a fairly obvious mistake last week in the Redskins loss to the Saints when they flagged Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins for intentional grounding late in the game. 

Let's be honest: the call was terrible.

Cousins never felt a pass rush on the play, and was very obviously throwing the ball away. Jay Gruden talked about the play on Monday, and could not figure out how a flag came out in that situation. 

We had two receivers in the area. Quarterbacks throws it away all the time that are uncatchable balls whether they are in the pocket or not. As long as there is a receiver in the area, you can throw it whether they are looking or not. Guys run bad routes – one guy runs a hitch and he’s supposed to run a go and the quarterback throws the go ball, it’s not grounding. So I don’t know why the confusion.

The NFL even reached out and apologized to Redskins team president Bruce Allen for the blown call, a hollow gesture that did not generate much excitement from Cousins (via 106.7 the Fan). 

Whatever they do to say, ‘we’re sorry, wrong call,’ it’s tough because there’s nobody bringing that up in February or March when we're making decisions about which direction to go with the organization. We appreciate the clarification but you know it really doesn’t do much.

If you're keeping score, the NFL, the Redskins head coach and the Redskins quarterback all know the call was wrong. 

You know who doesn't think the call was wrong? Fox analyst, and former Cowboys Hall of Fame QB, Troy Aikman.

Grounding? Free rusher? Decide for yourself below.

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Fantasy Football -- Thanksgiving Day plan


Fantasy Football -- Thanksgiving Day plan

The Week 12 fantasy football rankings are out -- but when it comes to Thanksgiving Day, everyone wants some player regardless of where they slot overall. Don't overthink it and take a lesser player, but for those on the fence or simply looking for Thursday action, here are some recommendations for all three games.

Vikings @ Lions

Obvious: Vikings -- Wide receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs... running backs Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon are in the RB2/Flex discussion for most, but good luck picking between them; Lions -- Wide receiver Golden Tate and ... wide receiver Marvin Jones works in three-WR formats while quarterback Matthew Stafford is No. 14 among passers this week.

Start: Case Keenum averaged 19.3 points over the last four games while the Lions have allowed ample points to fantasy quarterbacks in that stretch, though only three touchdown passes. Having Thielen and Diggs up the potential for Keenum, who is QB17 in the Week 12 rankings. That's comparable with Matthew Stafford (QB14), Andy Dalton, Jacoby Brissett and ahead of Derek Carr.

Add: Not sure there's any fringe skill player worth taking a flyer on so take a look at Vikings kicker Kai Forbath. He's attempted at least three field goals in four of his last five games and he kicked five extra points in the lone exception. ... Some will start Ameer Abdullah based on their options, but just know the Vikings allow the second fewest points to fantasy tight ends this season.

Chargers @ Cowboys

Obvious: Chargers -- running back Melvin Gordon and wide receiver Keenan Allen; Cowboys -- Wide receiver Dez Bryant, running back Alfred Morris and... quarterback Dak Prescott, though his production is down without running back Ezekiel Elliott and left tackle Tyron Smith.

Start: This hasn't been a vintage Philip Rivers season, but he's coming off his best performance (251 yards, two touchdown passes) since Week 5. The Cowboys aren't that special in the secondary and have surrendered two touchdown passes in three consecutive games. At QB13, he's on the cusp of QB1 status in 12-team leagues. 

Add: Kickers Nick Novak (Chargers) and Mike Nugent (Cowboys) are 15th and 16th respectively. So, there's that. 

Giants @ Redskins

The obvious: Giants -- tight end Evan Engram and... running back Orleans Darkwa is a viable RB2 option against a Redskins defense giving up gobs of yards on the ground; Redskins -- quarterback Kirk Cousins, tight Vernon Davis and...running back Samaje Perine is RB12 this week, though listed as questionable on the injury report with a finger issue.

Start: Jordan Reed is out for a fourth consecutive game, meaning Vernon Davis once again is Washington's main tight end. While he hasn't provided wow performances like Reed at his Pro Bowl best, Davis has been good for a solid 8-11 since taking on a larger role starting in Week 3. This could be his best statistical week of the season. The Giants allow the most points to fantasy tight ends on the season. Opposing tight ends scored a touchdown in each of the first 10 games before the streak snapped Sunday.


Add: Josh Doctson is only owned in 55 percent of leagues on CBS even though he's moved into the role of Washington's top outside receiver. The second-year player had four receptions for 81 yards in Sunday's overtime loss, though all the production came in the first half. Consistency is the next step, but Kirk Cousins is showing more and more confidence in the 6'3" target especially on 50-50 balls. Doctson is WR36 in my Week 12 rankings, meaning he's worth starting consideration in three-WR formats regardless.