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Week 12 NFL Power Rankings

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The NFL Power Rankings are all about evaluating teams every week. Because we have to rank all 32, there aren’t teams that fall through the cracks. That’s not the case with individual players, though.

Some players, no matter what they do, don’t get the big headlines. Whether this player is a star who isn’t fully appreciated or a role player who defers the praise to more celebrated teammates, our NFL Nation writers identified that guy on the team they cover who quietly gets the job done. Our power panel — a group of more than 80 writers, editors and TV personalities — evaluates how teams stack up throughout the season.

Previous rankings: 11 | 10 | 9 | 8 | 7 | 6 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | Preseason

Week 11 ranking: 1

Most underrated player: Lawrence Guy, DT

Big, powerful defensive tackles who don’t put up weighty sack numbers aren’t often part of the postgame conversation, especially if they prefer to be under the radar with the media, such as the 6-foot-4, 315-pound Guy does. But a large part of the success of the Patriots’ defense, which is the backbone of this year’s team, is Guy’s unsung work at the line of scrimmage — particularly against the run. He also tallied his first career interception earlier this season on an exemplary play. — Mike Reiss

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Pat McAfee says Lamar Jackson is doing something that nobody else can do right now in the NFL.

Week 11 ranking: 3

Most underrated player: Nick Boyle, TE

Boyle often takes a backseat to the Ravens’ pass-catching tight ends — Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst — with fans. But Boyle is the NFL’s top blocking tight end and a major reason Baltimore has rushed for 2,038 yards — the most by any team in its first 10 games of a season since the 1977 Bears. “We all know how valuable he is,” Andrews said. “He’s basically what makes this offense tick.” — Jamison Hensley


Week 11 ranking: 2

Most underrated player: K’Waun Williams, CB

The diminutive Williams is a favorite in the Niners locker room for playing much bigger than his 5-foot-9, 185-pound frame would suggest. Williams is one of just three defensive backs with at least one sack, two forced fumbles and two interceptions through the first 11 weeks. “We call him the Shark for a reason, because he’s just out there tearing everything up in sight,” Niners linebacker Fred Warner said. “He kind of is the whole package and an outstanding player for sure.” — Nick Wagoner


Week 11 ranking: 4

Most underrated player: Shaquill Griffin, CB

Of all the issues the Seahawks have had on defense, Griffin has not been one of them. His 11 pass breakups are tied for the league lead among defensive backs, per ESPN charting. He has allowed a passer rating of 75.9 when he has been the nearest defender in coverage, per NFL Next Gen Stats. That’s eighth-best among DBs with at least 50 targets. Griffin will have a hard time making the Pro Bowl unless he starts picking off some passes, but he is otherwise playing at that level. — Brady Henderson


Week 11 ranking: 5

Most underrated player: Elgton Jenkins, LG

The second-round pick ranks fourth among all NFL linemen in ESPN’s pass block win rate at 97.3%, which also is second among all guards. The rookie trails NFL leader and fellow Packer Corey Linsley, who was probably second choice for this write-up. Jenkins took over as a starter in Week 3 after left guard Lane Taylor suffered a torn biceps but would’ve done so eventually even without an injury to Taylor. “There’s been so much good, both in the run and the pass,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “But what I love about Elgton is the consistency and the level of effort that he brings each and every day on every play.” — Rob Demovsky


Week 11 ranking: 6

Most underrated player: Demario Davis, LB

The eighth-year veteran has never made a Pro Bowl. But he is working on his third straight season of at least 110 tackles. Since he arrived as a free agent last year, the Saints have had the NFL’s No. 1 run defense (allowing just 82.2 rushing yards per game over the past two seasons). Throw in everything Davis does as a captain, emotional leader and signal-caller wearing the defensive headset and he might be the Saints’ best free-agent signing in a decade. — Mike Triplett


Week 11 ranking: 7

Most underrated player: Jayron Kearse, S

In back-to-back weeks, Kearse has been credited with making the final play of the game to seal victories. He picked off Dak Prescott‘s Hail Mary attempt last week and broke up a pass in the end zone as time expired on Sunday against the Broncos. Kearse’s playing time has fluctuated, and the return of Andrew Sendejo puts the 6-foot-4 safety’s role in question. Still, when Harrison Smith sustained a hamstring injury late against Denver, Vikings coaches trusted Kearse to cover tight end Noah Fant in the ultimate “got to have it” situation. Coming through in these moments cements Kearse’s importance in the secondary. — Courtney Cronin

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Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman debate if Patrick Mahomes can lead the Chiefs’ potent offense on a Super Bowl run despite the team’s vulnerable defense.

Week 11 ranking: 9

Most underrated player: Anthony Sherman, FB

Sherman doesn’t play much on offense, but there’s a reason the Chiefs keep bringing him back. Sherman is now in his seventh season with the Chiefs because of his special-teams ability. He led the Chiefs in special-teams tackles with five heading into Monday night’s game against the Chargers. — Adam Teicher


Week 11 ranking: 10

Most underrated player: La’el Collins, RT

On an offensive line with Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin, it is easy to be overlooked, but Collins is having his best season. He came to the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent playing left guard and moved to right tackle in his third season. He has become comfortable in his techniques and has found the right blend between aggressiveness and patience, especially in pass protection. The only issue he has is a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee that he aggravated in Sunday’s win at Detroit. If he can’t play, then folks will see his value. — Todd Archer

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Ryan Clark explains that Dak Prescott is showing every week that he should be included in MVP conversations and that he deserves the contract he’s asking for.

Week 11 ranking: 8

Most underrated player: Carlos Hyde, RB

Yes, Hyde is averaging 76.9 yards per game, nearly double what he averaged last season, but he is sometimes overlooked because he plays on an offense highlighted by quarterback Deshaun Watson and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Thanks to Hyde, the Texans rank fifth in the NFL in rushing. — Sarah Barshop


Week 11 ranking: 11

Most underrated player: Cory Littleton, LB

On a defense that packs plenty of star power with Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey and Clay Matthews, Littleton often gets overlooked. But the fourth-year pro, who entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent, often comes up with big-time plays. He has two interceptions, two forced fumbles and a team-best 82 tackles this season. Littleton, also a special-teams standout, is in the final season of his contract. — Lindsey Thiry


Week 11 ranking: 13

Most underrated player: Jordan Phillips, DT

Phillips is a known commodity among the Bills fan base, but the rest of the league likely will get to know him this coming offseason, as he has played himself into a sizable payday. Despite initially taking a backseat to 2019 first-round pick Ed Oliver, the upcoming free agent trails only Aaron Donald in sacks among defensive tackles with seven and has been a much-needed presence in Buffalo’s interior pass rush. — Marcel Louis-Jacques


Week 11 ranking: 14

Most underrated player: Zach Pascal, WR

Pascal has been the Colts’ best receiver not named T.Y. Hilton this season. Pascal, who was claimed off waivers from Tennessee in 2018, leads the Colts in receiving yards (364) despite being fifth (23) in receptions and third in targets (40). He’ll continue to be one of quarterback Jacoby Brissett‘s favorite targets at receiver until Hilton returns from his calf injury, which has cost Hilton four games this season. — Mike Wells


Week 11 ranking: 12

Most underrated player: Jalen Mills, CB

He isn’t the fastest or flashiest corner out there, but there’s no denying the value Mills brings to the Eagles’ secondary. The defense has looked much different since he returned to the lineup Week 7 following a lengthy absence due to a foot injury. Over the past three games, opposing quarterbacks have managed only two passing touchdowns while averaging 170 passing yards per game. That’s quite a shift from earlier in the season, when the Eagles were among the most giving pass defenses in the NFL. Mills’ swagger and steady, physical style have been a big part of the turnaround. — Tim McManus


Week 11 ranking: 17

Most underrated player: Trayvon Mullen, CB

Sure, the rookie was a second-round draft pick, but many observers wondered if the Raiders were too high on him when they traded away a former first-rounder in Gareon Conley midseason to elevate Mullen. Turns out, the Raiders’ instincts have been on the mark. Mullen still is growing into the role, no doubt, but while he has been a step or so short on a pair of pick-sixes over the past few weeks, he sealed the Raiders’ win against the Bengals on Sunday with a pick of Ryan Finley. — Paul Gutierrez


Week 11 ranking: 15

Most underrated player: Steven Nelson, CB

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Cowboys fall to Bears for 3rd consecutive loss, 6-7 record on season

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CHICAGO — Jerry Jones might not be in a position to keep Jason Garrett as Dallas Cowboys head coach anymore.

Thursday’s 31-24 loss to the Chicago Bears was the latest disappointment in a Cowboys’ season that has gone wrong but still has the potential to lead to a playoff appearance.

Jones has made only one in-season coaching change in his tenure as owner and general manager and, at times, Thursday’s game was reminiscent of Wade Phillips’ final game on Nov. 7, 2010, a 45-7 defeat to the Green Bay Packers.

The day after that loss Garrett was installed as interim head coach and has had the job ever since.

Thursday’s loss was the Cowboys’ third straight and as disheartening as any they have had because of what was on the line.

After the Thanksgiving Day loss to the Buffalo Bills, Jones said he would not make a coaching change and professed faith that Garrett was the right coach to change the team’s fortunes. Jones was envisioning the Cowboys running the table, winning the NFC East and becoming a threat to compete for a Super Bowl.

Given the performance Thursday, even Jones’ confidence has to be shaken with his team 6-7 with three games to play.

For the second straight game, the Cowboys’ offense opened with a first-possession touchdown. For the second straight game, things went downhill after that.

Like the loss to the Bills in which the defense allowed 26 straight points, they were scorched again, giving up 24 unanswered points to the Bears.

The Cowboys’ defense had a first-possession interception, its first takeaway in 263 snaps, but then gave up touchdowns on three of the next four possessions to close out the first half. The defense contributed mightily as well with three third-down penalties that kept Chicago’s touchdown drives alive.

The offense wasn’t much better. After opening with a season-long 17-play drive that covered 75 yards and ended on an Ezekiel Elliott touchdown run, the offense went six straight possessions without a score and gained just 57 yards.

Jones has remained more patient with Garrett than he has with any other coach. Chan Gailey was fired after making the playoffs in 1998 and ’99. Dave Campo was finally let go after three straight 5-11 finishes in 2002. Phillips made the playoffs in 2007 and ’09 but was doomed by a 1-7 start to the 2010 season.

Garrett is the second-winningest coach in Cowboys’ history to Tom Landry with an 83-66 record, but he has not gotten past the divisional round of the playoffs in three postseason appearances. He entered this season with a must-win mandate since he does not have a contract past this season.

A potential issue for Jones is who to make the interim coach even if he wanted to make the switch. In 2010, Garrett was the clear choice. In 2019, passing game coordinator Kris Richard, who calls the defense, and coordinator Rod Marinelli have presided over a group that has disappointed.

Despite entering Thursday with the top-ranked offense in terms of yards per game, with first-year coordinator Kellen Moore, the offense has bogged down in recent weeks.

If there is any optimistic bent to the Cowboys’ playoff chances, which might save Garrett’s job, it’s this: According to ESPN’s FPI, the loss dropped the Cowboys’ chances of making it to the postseason to just 70 percent. Had they won, their chances would have improved to 77%.

But is there any sense of confidence that the Cowboys can right all their wrongs before they play the Los Angeles Rams at AT&T Stadium on Dec. 15 even if Jones makes a change at head coach?

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Patriots’ Tom Brady makes light of toe, elbow injuries

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was limited in practice Thursday with the team listing him with toe and right elbow injuries, which he addressed with humor.

“That might be the first time my toe’s ever been on the injury report. You know us Patriots. We’re pretty diligent about listing everything, so I guess we have to make mention of my toe now as well,” Brady said with a laugh Thursday night in his weekly interview with Westwood One sports.

Of his elbow, he joked, “Isn’t there some HIPAA violation or something like that, when I start talking about all my injuries? I’m doing pretty good. At this time of the year, I’ll take it. I’ll take anything if I’m still able to go out there and feel like I can play my best. I’m feeling really good, really positive about this week. We have a really great challenge ahead of us.”

Brady and the Patriots (10-2) host the Kansas City Chiefs (8-4) on Sunday.

“It is going to be a very, very tough game. Hopefully we can go out there and play with the fire and energy we have, and go out there and have a great performance,” said Brady, who acknowledged that his voice was still recovering from Sunday night’s road loss to the Houston Texans.

With No. 3 quarterback Cody Kessler (illness) also limited in practice Thursday, rookie Jarrett Stidham was the only Patriots quarterback to practice in full. Brady, 42, had been a full participant in practice Wednesday.

One other issue for the Patriots to potentially resolve before kickoff is solidifying their kicker position. In an unusual situation, the team has practiced the past two days without a kicker on the roster.

Veteran Nick Folk, who kicked in three games for the Patriots before he was waived last week with a non-football injury designation (appendix), is a top candidate to fill the role once medically cleared. Kai Forbath, who replaced Folk in Sunday’s loss to the Texans and was released Monday, could also be re-signed.

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Rams’ Todd Gurley on board with getting bigger workload

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THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — When Sean McVay was asked Wednesday if there was a reason behind running back Todd Gurley’s recent increase in carries, the Los Angeles Rams coach responded, “Me not being an idiot.”

A day later, Gurley didn’t disagree.

“He said it. I didn’t,” Gurley said Thursday, a small grin on his face. “That’s all I got to say.”

Throughout much of the Rams 7-5 season, McVay has been eager to rely on the passing game and hesitant to commit to the run.

The focal point of McVay’s offense the past two seasons, Gurley has yet to produce a signature game, the kind that earned him a four-year extension, with $45 million in guarantees, before last season.

However, recently, Gurley’s role has increased.

The Rams relied on the All-Pro back to grind out a Week 11 win over the Chicago Bears, as he tied his season high, rushing for 97 yards on a season-best 25 carries.

Then, in a Week 13 blowout over the Arizona Cardinals, he rushed for 95 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.

In each of those games, Gurley had at least 100 scrimmage yards, a mark he reached in only one other instance this season, a Week 1 win over the Carolina Panthers.

“He’s done a nice job handling a bigger workload,” said McVay, whose 7-5 Rams have only an 18 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index.

“It’s been fine,” said Gurley, when asked how he’s responded to the larger workload. “Obviously, what is it? Week 13, Week 14? Everyone’s kind of feeling the long season. Just got to do what you got to do to get your body right and your mind right for each Sunday.”

It was uncertain going into the season how Gurley would be utilized because of issues surrounding his left knee, which kept him sidelined for the final two games of the 2018 season.

But Gurley and the Rams have repeatedly said that his knee is fine, while McVay has continued to deny that Gurley has been on any sort of load management program this season.

“It has nothing to do with that,” McVay said. “It was really just, you’re just kind of working through the 2019 season — the best way to utilize all of our players and figuring out what our identity is.”

When asked if he would like to continue with the increased amount of carries through final four games, Gurley said, “I mean it doesn’t matter. … Team sport, only one person can get the ball.”

In 11 games this season, Gurley has averaged 58 yards on 14 carries, down from the 89 yards on 18 carries that he averaged in 2018.

After producing back-to-back seasons rushing for more than 1,200 yards, Gurley has rushed for 642 yards on 154 carries.

He has yet to rush for 100 yards in a game, after doing it six times last season.

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