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Week 11 NFL Power Rankings: Broncos back on top; Panthers suddenly a contender

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Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sport

The biggest news of the week for Denver Broncos fans was an MRI on Peyton Manning's ankle that showed no new damage, which means he will be a go for the huge Sunday Night Football showdown with hated division rival, the Kansas City Chiefs.

Several teams I would consider "playoff contenders" lost this weekend, while two other fringe teams really showed they belong near the top. Both the Carolina Panthers and Detroit Lions are taking care of business and are finally getting the respect their due in my own power rankings.

Meanwhile, teams like the Green Bay Packers and Cincinnati Bengals are slipping badly. The Packers situation is even more dire with Aaron Rodgers out for several more weeks potentially. The performances this past weekend by the San Francisco 49ers and Indianapolis Colts (both at home) was downright embarrassing. Elite teams may drop a home game now and then, but what the heck happened to Indianapolis? That was not elite.

Let's see how things got blown up this week in my NFL Rankings. Check out last week's power rankings here.



Denver Broncos

Peyton Manning was on pace to obliterate the Chargers on Sunday, then he got hit. The ankles are hurting again and Chiefs fans are salivating at the chance of facing yet another second or third string quarterback next week. Manning did throw four touchdown passes and is still on pace to destroy every single season passing record worth having, so there is that. Plus he helped make Philip Rivers sad.



Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks struggled to find the end zone frequently on Sunday, but still managed enough field goals to make the score 33 before the game was over. Russell Wilson was efficient enough, but it was Marshawn Lynch who really got it together - to the tune of 150 yards and a touchdown. After several weeks of ho-hum football and nearly no one knocking them down the rankings for it, I expect a big jump from all of the Seahawks lovers in the media this week. I begrudgingly do so.



New England Patriots

The Patriots were on a Bye this week, but I do not think I gave them their due after the drubbing they put on going into the Bye. Tom Brady has his weapons back on the field and it shows they are a Top 5 football team right now. They also beat the Saints, so I had to put them one up even though the Saints looked good this week.



New Orleans Saints

Drew Brees was lights out on Sunday Night Football, embarrassing the Cowboys early and often. It helped that the Cowboys suffered several key injuries on defense. The NFC is shaping up to look like a race to homefield advantage and whoever gets it is going to be the favorite to win the Super Bowl. I do not envy any team that has to go into Seattle or New Orleans for a playoff game. Although, Brees and the Saints certainly look scarier than the Seahawks...



Carolina Panthers

Cam Newton is transitioning from a spoiled childish talent to an elite quarterback this season. He has taken the Panthers to within a game of the Saints and are playing some of the best football in the league right now. If there is one team I think could go into Seattle and take down the Seahawks in the playoffs, its this team. This team can solidify their position among the league's elite teams with a win over the Patriots next week.



San Francisco 49ers

After dominating the NFL for over a month, Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers came crashing back to Earth on Sunday against another team that has been dominating the NFL for about the same period of time. The 49ers are still a playoff team, but its looking like the Seahawks will take this division and run with it. Any hope of returning to the Super Bowl will likely mean this team would have to become road warriors.



Kansas City Chiefs

Boy the Chiefs looked terrible this week! I had no choice but to drop them like a stone. Another weekend like that and the season could very well be over for KC... In fact, their fans must by going crazy with angst. It's okay though, we at Mile High Report have figured Chiefs fans out and this graphic explains everything...



Detroit Lions

The Lions continue to build towards their first division title in I don't know how long. Matt Stafford tossed three touchdowns, but he seems to always find a way to throw at least one interception a game, which he did again in this game. On the other side, Jay Cutler had enough frustration for one afternoon late having both a touchdown pass and an interception. The Bears came alive after his departure and nearly took the game away at the end.



Indianapolis Colts

Mulligan! I'm guessing that's what Andrew Luck and the rest of the Colts players are asking the league for. Well, you are not getting it. Talented young teams have a tendency of playing up or down to their opponent and this time, they simply just mailed it in completed. The Colts got punched in the mouth and since the Broncos have their only loss of the season so far to them, I'm happy. The more losses they have the better when it comes to the playoffs.



Cincinnati Bengals

Andy Dalton is elite like Joe Flaco is elite. The Bengals didn't exercise their demons and did not solidify their claim on the AFC North as many expected. Instead, they probably gave the Ravens the jump start they needed to give these Bengals some headaches in the home stretch. How do you not come together for the win after such a balloon deflating play at the end of the game? Losers.



Arizona Cardinals

Carson Palmer was okay in this game. He led the Cardinals to victory, but they just don't seem like they have taken the next step. However, at 5-4 they are definitely in the playoff hunt in the NFC. A strong finish is needed though. Now if someone could remind me that I should pick the Cardinals more often, I might actually do better in my weekly picks!



Green Bay Packers

I am absolutely kicking myself for forgetting to switch my pick from the Packers to the Eagles, because I would not have taken these guys with Aaron Rodgers out of the game. He is the engine of their success and it certainly looks like their season is fading quickly. It just goes to show how important a truly elite quarterback is to winning and losing in today's NFL. I'm looking at you Kansas City.



New York Jets

The Bye Week for the Jets. No movement.



Dallas Cowboys

Tony Romo choked in another big game, leading his Cowboys to a fantastic .500 records with just six games remaining in the regular season. What a great way to take control of the division. lol I wonder if Jerry Jones actually shakes things up again when his team sucks it up down the stretch for the umpteenth time. It's you Jerry, not them.



Philadelphia Eagles

Nick Foles may be close to turning himself into the Eagles franchise quarterback. After several weeks of suffering through Michael Vick and Matt Barkley, this team is suddenly one of those dark horses who may be starting a late season surge. If I were a Cowboys fan, I'd be very concerned. I'm not though, so I'm just going to laugh.



Baltimore Ravens

Somehow, the Ravens found a way to win the game. The win was thanks largely to all of the elite Joe Flacco's on the defensive side of the ball that picked off Dalton a multitude number of times. The real Flacco gave it up almost as many times, but it didn't matter. At 4-5, the Ravens are only a game and a half out of the division lead. This could actually happen.



St. Louis Rams

Who needs a starting quarterback when you have Tavon Austin? The Rams certainly don't need one. Where did this offensive outburst come from? To me, this game felt like a fluke, so I won't be buying any Rams stock any time soon, nor will I be selling Colts stock.



Cleveland Browns

The Bye Week for the Browns. No change.



San Diego Chargers

Philip Rivers and the Chargers were 4-1 all time against Peyton Manning and the Colts, but are now 0-3 against Peyton Manning and the Broncos. However, they did attack Manning's legs frequently on Sunday and inexplicably no penalties were called, so hopefully those dirty Chargers didn't derail the Broncos entire season with their cheating ways. Yes, I just went there. :P



Chicago Bears

So, Josh McCown looks like a better option at quarterback for the Bears than does Jay Cutler, but knowing coaches, Cutler will start whenever he is healthy. The Bears are going to go down the same road that the Broncos did under Cutler. Excellent starts to the season, only to fade at the end. Tough break.



Tennessee Titans

Losing to the Jaguars does not bode well for anyone's opinion of your team. With Jake Locker done for the year, I'm betting the Titans season is also done for the year. I actually like Ryan Fitzpatrick, but I do think he is a below average starter in this league. Probably right around the level of Alex Smith.



New York Giants

The Giants are finally playing like the borderline playoff team they are supposed to be. Eli Manning is regaining some of that confidence and the Giants could also be that dark horse team that makes a late season push. I'm just not sure any team can overcome an 0-6 start, but if they finish anywhere near .500 it will be a testament to Tom Couglin's coaching ability.



Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers, after a rough start, are playing hard. However, they are about what I thought they would be, which is a mediocre football team. They should take care of business against bad team, but I do not think they match up well against playoff teams right now. Ben Roethlisberger is denying that he ever requested a trade, but we all know how many lies are said to keep the public in the dark, so...we'll see how that plays out early next offseason.



Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins get hammered this week purely based on their mockery of the word classy. Sure not all of the information has come out, but we all know how Pat Bowlen responded to Josh McDaniels attempt to cheat. Bowlen fired him. I'll let the kneejerking happen now and we'll see how things play out. The played pretty good on Monday Night Football though ... lol.



Buffalo Bills

The Bills need to trade C.J. Spiller to a team that actually knows how to use his skills. They have got to be run by the dumbest coaching staff on the planet. If I were a Bills fan, I'd switch over the Patriots. At least they know how to maximize the productivity from the talent they have. The Bills just squander it.



Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings found some drive to win on Thursday Night Football with Christian Ponder leading them most of the way. Once Matt Cassel came in, it was mostly up to the defense to hold the Redskins out of the end zone until the end of the game. The Vikings look like a team that could finish the season strong if Ponder continues to lead the way.



Washington Redskins

The Redskins looked like a team ready to break out for a huge win to get themselves back in the hunt for the NFC East race, but Robert Griffin III succumbed to the pass rush mayhem of the Vikings defensive line in the second half. It also does not help that Mike Shanahan doesn't know what the word defense means or how to build one. Fake punts also do not appear to be their strong suit either...



Houston Texans

The Texans are competing, but it doesn't look like any wins will be coming their way until that defense figures out how to come up with some defensive stops. For a team that had such a great defense last season, 24 points should be enough to win most of the time. And especially against less talented teams like the Cardinals. Case Keenum was solid all day though. He looks like a starter in this league.



Oakland Raiders

The Raiders are regressing quickly and could soon find their house of cards falling rapidly. Three wins is about two more than I thought they'd get this season, so by that measure I would say that 2013 has been a resounding success for them.



Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers looked on the verge of yet another late game collapse, but finally when the game was on the line their best player, Darrelle Revis, grabbed the game clinching interception.



Atlanta Falcons

You know what the Falcons are? They are a car who was worked on by an incompetent mechanic who didn't tighten all of the lug nuts before sending the owner off on their way. The result of which is this...



Jacksonville Jaguars

The unthinkable happened people. The Jaguars won a game.