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Mason's Power Rankings: A jumble in the middle

Posted Nov 22, 2016

The cluster of teams between 4-6 and 6-4 makes differentiating between half of the league's teams difficult. Where do the Broncos and everyone else stand?

32. CLEVELAND BROWNS (0-11)

Last week: 32
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 30 - Defense: 32

As if the Browns didn't have enough problems, they face this conundrum: They will now take every opponent's best shot, because nobody wants to be the team that loses to them. Further, "The Factory of Sadness" is now not just a nickname for First Energy Stadium; it's an actual place at which you can tag yourself on Facebook.

But it's going to get better. Danny Shelton has emerged as the interior force the Browns expected him to be when they picked him in the first round of the 2015 draft. Wide receiver Terrelle Pryor has learned the tricks of his pro position and is dangerous threat on the outside. Quarterback Cody Kessler is accurate and composed -- when he gets time to throw, because the interior of the offensive line has been a problem.

31. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (1-9)

Last week: 31
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 31 - Defense: 25

Rain and wind are the great equalizers, and for three quarters against New England, they helped the 49ers keep it close. Then the foul weather subsided, and the Patriots scored 17 consecutive points.

30. CHICAGO BEARS (2-8)

Last week: 29
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 25 - Defense: 21

Last year, the Bears averaged 2.13 offensive touchdowns per game. This year, it's down to 1.5 per game. Chicago has remained nearly static in yardage per game and turnover rate, but isn't cashing in on its chances.

29. NEW YORK JETS (3-7)

Last week: 29
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 22 - Defense: 22

Up one spot with a week off. Hooray, bye weeks.

28. LOS ANGELES RAMS (4-6)

Last week: 27
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 32 - Defense: 8

Jared Goff settled for underneath passes in the rain and Jeff Fisher failed in his attempt to bring back the backwards-cap look. All things considered, a lose-lose situation.

27. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (2-8)

Last week: 28
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 18 - Defense: 13

Only three teams average more penalty yards than the Jaguars, who have 74.9 per game.

26. CINCINNATI BENGALS (3-6-1)

Last week: 23
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 11 - Defense: 23

They're 1.5 games back of first place in the AFC North, but without Gio Bernard and A.J. Green, their deficit feels four times as large.

25. GREEN BAY PACKERS (4-6)

Last week: 20
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 7 - Defense: 27

If you're a fantasy owner of Aaron Rodgers, you're happy; he's on pace for 40 touchdown passes, which would be his highest output since 2011.

24. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (5-5)

Last week: 25
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 9 - Defense: 31

All momentum gained from two consecutive wins evaporated with Andrew Luck's concussion and likely absence from a make-or-break Thanksgiving showdown with Pittsburgh.

23. TENNESSEE TITANS (5-6)

Last week: 17
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 14 - Defense: 19

They may look back upon being swept by the Colts as what kept them out of the playoffs for an eighth consecutive season. Across the board, the Titans are a better team, but that single head-to-head matchup separates them from first place.

22. CAROLINA PANTHERS (4-6)

Last week: 24
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 16 - Defense: 10

A two-week West Coast road swing against teams that are a combined 15-4-1 (Oakland and Seattle) represents a sub-optimal path toward saving your season.

21. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (5-5)

Last week: 26
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 15 - Defense: 17

Their good news? The Bucs have home games in two of the next three weeks. Their bad news? They're 1-6 at home since a 23-19 win over Atlanta last Dec. 6.

20. ARIZONA CARDINALS (4-5-1)

Last week: 15
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 19 - Defense: 1

This is what happens when your quarterback commits 19 turnovers in a 10-game span dating back to last January's NFC Championship Game.

19. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (4-6)

Last week: 16
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 4 - Defense: 28

If not for three blocked kicks, the Saints could be 7-3 and in first place in the NFC South.

18. BUFFALO BILLS (5-5)

Last week: 19
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 12 - Defense: 18

Sammy Watkins remains on injured reserve and now Robert Woods is unlikely to play this week, leaving the Bills more dependent on LeSean McCoy than ever -- and McCoy could be compromised by a dislocated thumb.

17. MIAMI DOLPHINS (6-4)

Last week: 21
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 27 - Defense: 12

It's all about the schedule: Miami faces just one team that currently has a winning record in its next six games, and that team is one it has beaten three consecutive times at home (New England). The three titans of the AFC West could find one of their playoff spots snagged by the surging Dolphins.

16. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (5-5)

Last week: 22
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 13 - Defense: 14

Le'Veon Bell's 146-yard tally in Cleveland was his best of the season, and followed five consecutive games in which he failed to crack the 100-yard mark.

15. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (5-5)

Last week: 13
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 21 - Defense: 5

Carson Wentz's recent struggles are a rookie's tale told since time immemorial -- a tale of defenses adapting based off film. He had a 7-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio in his first four starts; since then, it's 4-to-6. The test comes now; how do he and the Eagles offense adapt?

14. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (4-6)

Last week: 14
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 9 - Defense: 11

Their next three games -- at Houston, against Tampa Bay and at Carolina -- are winnable, but this is a team that has made an art form of frittering away opportunities, with a 4-14 mark in its last 18 games decided by eight points or fewer.

13. HOUSTON TEXANS (6-4)

Last week: 11
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 28 - Defense: 3

They can blame a bad call on the sideline. They can also blame themselves for punting in an obvious go-for-it situation.

12. DETROIT LIONS (6-4)

Last week: 18
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 6 - Defense: 29

The Lions are a perfect 10-for-10 ... as in 10 games decided by seven or fewer points. No one has ever opened a season with that many close games.

11. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (6-4)

Last week: 7
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 26 - Defense: 4

They won't have Blair Walsh's errant kicks to blame any longer.

10. BALTIMORE RAVENS (5-5)

Last week: 8
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 29 - Defense: 2

An 0-4 mark against teams that currently have winning records isn't a deal-breaker considering that they close with five games in six weeks against teams that are .500 or worse, but it does not augur well for potential postseason success.

9. ATLANTA FALCONS (6-4)

Last week: 7
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 2 - Defense: 30

Atlanta is 9-3 since 2004 coming off a bye, which is bad news for the Cardinals. Take cover, Arizona.

8. NEW YORK GIANTS (7-3)

Last week: 10
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 24 - Defense: 7

Not only did the Giants win their fifth straight game Sunday, they snapped an 18-game streak of games with at least one turnover.

7. WASHINGTON REDSKINS (6-3-1)

Last week: 9
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 3 - Defense: 26

Now it gets tough -- a three-game road swing that includes games at Dallas, Arizona and Philadelphia.

6. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (7-3)

Last week: 5
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 20 - Defense: 15

Nobody has more defensive touchdowns than the Chiefs (four), which has helped them overcome an offense that ranks 20th in net points per possession and first downs per possession and 21st in net yardage per possession.

5. DENVER BRONCOS (7-3)

Last week: 6
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 23 - Defense: 6

Consistency, consistency, consistency. It's what Head Coach Gary Kubiak wants on offense, and it's what the Broncos haven't delivered, ranking 25th in net yardage per possession and 26th in first downs per possession.

4. OAKLAND RAIDERS (8-2)

Last week: 4
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 10 - Defense: 20

The last four Raiders games have seen an average score of Raiders 30, opponents 20 -- exactly the score by which they defeated the Broncos.

3. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (7-2-1)

Last week: 3
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 17 - Defense: 3

Just when they thought they had their running back issues solved ...

2. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (8-2)

Last week: 2
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 5 - Defense: 16

Elandon Roberts, who was supposed to replace the traded Jamie Collins, played just 11 snaps Sunday and did not start as the Patriots opened in a 3-3-5 formation. New England's defense has dropped from 10th to 16th in per-possession efficiency since the trade of Collins.

1. DALLAS COWBOYS (9-1)

Last week: 1
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 1 - Defense: 24

Two stats that could indicate trouble ahead: The Cowboys are 25th in net yardage allowed per possession and 27th in first downs allowed per possession. Could Washington's explosive offense seize on this Thursday and force the Cowboys into the type of game they haven't had to play -- a shootout?

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